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Tom Shipley is the Co-founder and CEO of AVA Acquisitions, an advertising agency aggregation company created to acquire a series of agencies. AVA builds value through programmatic scaling and a people-first approach. Before AVA, Tom raised $100 million to launch Foundry, the Amazon and e-commerce brand aggregator. He is a serial entrepreneur, platform and e-commerce investor, strategic advisor, speaker, and the leading expert in omnichannel brand building and business rollups. Tom’s brands have sold over $2 billion through direct-to-consumer, Amazon, and retailers including Costco, Ulta, CVS, Nordstrom, HSN, and more.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Tom Shipley’s backstory and how he joined the Israeli Defense Forces
  • How the lessons Tom learned in the forces impact his business operations
  • Tom’s criteria for success
  • Tom explains why he founded AVA Acquisitions
  • AVA’s ideal acquisition company
  • How AVA achieved its first acquisition — and the lessons learned from that experience
  • Why you need to change your point of view on economic downturns

In this episode…

Many people struggle with starting, running, and scaling a business. How can you create something that is transformational and positively impacts people’s lives?

Having served in the Israeli Defense Forces, Tom Shipley learned significant lessons that have helped him successfully navigate his personal and professional life. Gaining knowledge from his experiences, Tom became a serial entrepreneur with brands that have sold over $2 billion across retailers. With his vast experience, Tom knows what it takes to push through challenges and seek out opportunities. Tune in to hear Tom’s advice on starting and running a thriving business.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz interviews Tom Shipley, Co-founder and CEO of AVA Acquisitions, about his journey from the Israeli Defense Forces to successfully owning businesses. Tom explains the lessons he learned in the forces and how they impact his business operations, his criteria for success, why he founded AVA Acquisitions, and how the company achieved its first acquisition.

Resources mentioned in this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz  0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I have Tom Shipley. You can check him out at And Before I formally introduce you, Tom, I like to mention a couple of past episodes people check out and since you were in the Israeli Defense Forces actually did in Israel Entrepreneur Series, and I had Elie Wurtman who took three companies from inception IPO. He’s a partner of PICO Venture Partners, Uri Adoniis author of The Unstoppable Startup. And he spent 20 years in high tech over a decade being a partner at Jerusalem Venture Partners and Mois Navon of Mobileye. And they were acquired by Intel for over $15.3 billion. And what I loved about that storytime is he had to, at one point sacrifice and go back to his wife and kids and say, I’m pulling you out of all extracurricular activities. There’s no more eating out because the company wasn’t doing well. Right. So even looking, I like seeing from the outside it looks like I’ll just a huge success, but there’s ups and downs. So I loved I told that story. And I said, Josh Elizetxe founder of Snow, and I know you’re an advisor there, and he talks about how he built up Snow Teeth Whitening, so people should check out that episode as well. And this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25, we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we help you run your podcast. For me, Tom, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I’m found no better way over the past decade than the profile of people in companies I most admire in this planet and let everyone else know what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should have questions go to to learn more. And there’s so much to unpack in today’s interview we have Tom Shipley is a serial entrepreneur. Over the past 20 years, he’s become one of the leading experts in omni channel brand building. And Tom’s brands have sold over $2 billion through direct to consumer marketing and retail. And his brands are widely recognized. You can find them in Costco, Altos, CVS, Nordstroms, and many more. And him and his partner have successfully exited Atlantic Coast Brands to private equity in 2021. he co-founded Foundry, which is an e-commerce and Amazon brand aggregator which raised $100 million to create a leading digital first consumer brands company. And he also is co-founder and CEO of AVA, which is Ag Ventures Aggregator, and they’re leading the charge to acquire and scale 30 advertising agencies per year. Right. But when you’re listening to this, it may be more than that. But that’s right now in this point in time, and, Tom, thanks for joining me.

Tom Shipley  3:17 

Well, it’s great to meet you and great to connect and happy to be here.

Jeremy Weisz  3:20 

I want to start off with the Israeli Defense Forces. You had this idea, being a US citizen, that you were going to join Israeli Defense Forces, I’d love you to share a pivotal story.

Tom Shipley  3:41 

Love to do that. We can talk later about my five year old, and it’s the chapter in your life rule. So the question is, what is that next epic chapter in your life. And just because you’ve always done something doesn’t define you so. And while that is more meaningful now in my life back then it was very impactful. Just think of things differently. There are the traditional roles and expectations we have and the rules we think we have to follow. And while if you want to live your life by other people’s rules, it’s challenging when you look back on your life and say, how did everything go? And is it everything that I really want to do? Is this the life that I really wanted to live? So at the age of 20, I was at Florida State University, a kid growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, in Orlando, Florida. Life was good. I was in fraternity and while I was involved with different causes in Jewish causes on campus, the question that came in is am I having impact? Ooh, that one threw me off. And the answer was no, no matter what I was doing the magnitude of the best case scenario, what I can doing was not enough impact. So I decided to surprise my parents went home on a Saturday and I told my dad is what are you doing here? And I said, Well want to let you know that the semester, I’m leaving Florida State University moving to Israel and join the Israeli army? And he went, wait a second, you barely know the language, you don’t know much about the country, you know nothing about the army. And so you run a little bit, so who cares? So what are you going to push papers if they let you in. And so that I said, I understand. And that’s what I did at the end of the semester moved to Israel and found out about the top three special forces units in the army identified one that I wanted to go for, and the rule of 10,000 sunk in right then is that it’s similar to whatever you want to pursue in life. And the bigger the goal you have, you’re facing, what most people would say have unsurmountable odds against you succeeding and even us living the life we live, whoever we are, we’ve already beaten so much off. So in that situation, that was 10,000 soldiers applied again, my unit, they pick 1000 us after a battery of tests, physical and psychological and psycho technical tests, they pick 1000 of us to go to Hell Week, out of hell week, they pick 25 of us to go through a 13 month program. After the 13 months, there were 13 of us left that served in the unit. The person that stepped off that plane in Israel had very little chance of succeeding getting to my unit. So Jeremy, one of the things is, what did you learn is I had to assume the identity of the person that would succeed their process, I had to actually shift who I was, which became who I was in the future. And, and basically compress time of where I was going to be and bring it to now. And so as I went there, and it was like that week, or that Hell Week was like an out of body experience, where I was looking at myself on it at this person that I didn’t realize that had no fear, that had this unbelievable level of confidence, that pushed myself to another level that nothing could stop me. And I felt unbreakable that week, and I said that if my legs break, literally broken bones is the only way it’s going to stop me, but nothing was going to stop, because you’re going to always take another step. And always another step. And no matter how much people tell you, that you’re done, you keep on going. And I learned about human character that week. And again, then clearly the years that followed, but human character, what makes unbreakable people, what makes strong people, what makes trustworthy, the power of a team get together what they can do when there’s high level of trust. And that you just never give up. And always have a smile on your face, no matter how bad things are. And occasionally things are really bad laugh. But if you just take those basic tenants and apply to whatever, it takes a long way. So most your listeners are entrepreneurs, have led organization. If you’ve been around for a nanosecond, you’ve hit hard times you thought that the wind was in your back. And suddenly you hit a massive wall. Because it’s never as good as you think it is, is what I tell entrepreneurs, and it’s never as bad as you think it is. But so be careful. And we’ve all hit those things were great. And suddenly, you hit that concrete wall. And then what it takes a certain amount of resilience and fortitude and passion. And knowing that even though everyone says you’re done and closed on the company, you might as well just go home, there’s no hope. Shit we entrepreneurs are resourceful is we might not have that we never have resources in the army, you never have the resource to succeed. But you’re taught to be resourceful. As entrepreneurs, it’s our nature to be greedy and to be resourceful. And when everyone says you’re done, it’s impossible, we say, let’s get to work. So, that’s some of the things that I learned. And there’s some amazing stories, amazing people, but I don’t think we have the time to cover that. But those are just some of the initial thoughts about what were those initial breakthrough moments of purely an identity shift.
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