Great Founders RAW Conversation With Brewster Stanislaw Of Inside Social

This was one of my favorite Founders RAW conversations I have had this past year, with Inside Social founder Brewster Stanislaw.  We talk about fundraising, cofounders, the future of social technology amongst a lot of other stuff.  All around a good guy and a great conversation.

Enjoy.

 

Taking The Bumpy Road

“Clank-Clank…. Clank-Clank.” 

The keys were hitting the ignition so hard I thought they were going to fly straight out of the car, as it was rocking back and forth so fast it was spilling my cup of water all over my lap.

Dude, where we going again?” one of my friends asks as he grabs another hand of chips from the bag.  He finishes his bite and quips “man, what the hell are we doing? This road sucks.

“Trust me, it’s awesome!” I reassured him.

What he didn’t know was we were about to ascend on one of the most beautiful views one can find in the Pacific Northwest.  Of course, to get there we had to do a little off-roading first.

30 minutes later, Clank-Clank…. Clank-Clank” ….the keys shouted again.….. Clank-Clank…. Clank-Clank” even louder this time.

After a treacherous 45 minute drive and almost popping both front tires on the demanding bumpy mountain road, we finally reached the top of the mountain to see this…

Blanchard Hill

I often think back to those college days when I would venture up to Blanchard Hill for a weekend of camping with friends.  It took a toll both on the car and our stomachs as we gained elevation on the logging roads in our cheap little sedan.  Back then – even if we were just looking for a cool spot to drink beer and roast marshmallows on a campfire – we unintentionally grasped something very important about life.

You don’t get anywhere amazing by taking the road normally traveled.  It’s the roads less traveled which provide the largest payoff.

Of course you couldn’t reach this amazing view on smooth, straight, and well traveled roads.  It’s too normal and too commonplace.   It’s flat.  It’s boring.  They take you from point A to point B.  Too many people travel along those roads to experience such an amazing and unique payoff.

I am reminiscing about this because I find myself on the bumpy road right now.

My “keys” are clanking so loud right now, so loud it’s deafening.  I sometimes wonder why I am sacrificing other parts of my life and my earning potential in the prime of my life to do something different than others.  Why am I not on the same road as so many of my friends?  They “seem” to be driving so smoothly, smiling and enjoying the fruits of the road most traveled.  The road I am on is extremely bumpy and very deserted, with so many potholes I am pulling the wheel back and forth, weaving left and right to simply keep the tires full of air.

But you know what?

I have realized it’s not specifically about the road you are on but the destination where you will end up.   You must choose between enjoying the road or enjoying the destination where that road leads you.  Most of the time those are opposing forces and I have learned you have to do a little off-roading to building anything extraordinary today.

Exiting the highway and ascending the bumpy mountain road is what is required of a successful entrepreneur.  Some come a little more prepared, with their 4×4 trucks and their lifted chassis so they miss most of the rocks.  And some – who may be thought of as a little bit crazy – just start climbing the road with whatever vehicle they might be in at the time.  Yet it is these people, who may not have the luxury of a large 4×4, who learn to become the greatest navigators of the bumpy roads.

But in the end, it really doesn’t matter what vehicle you took to get to the top.  Getting to the top, reaching your destination, is the only thing that matters.  The view is worth the work and trouble of it all.  The satisfaction of choosing the bumpy road – doing something most people don’t  - overrides all the pain and challenge one experiences through it all.

Which road are you choosing?

Hey – Get. To. The. Point.

It’s harsh, I know.

We have short attentions spans.

And it seems like they are getting shorter by the year with each new brief messaging app that infiltrates our society.

gettothepoint

I am not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing, but one thing I have noticed more and more is people want you to get to the point, like now.  I have noticed this in my own life recently, and although tough to have someone “adjust” you in real-time it’s greatly beneficial to hear it.

Basically, I tend to “pre-empt” a conversation with background information, stats, or things I think the person I am talking to needs to understand as we are discussing a topic.  I sometimes do this because I think ahead – determine what they will probably ask – and then simply provide it to them beforehand so they won’t need to ask it.  And hey, it feels like I am more completely communicating to them what I need to say.

This doesn’t need to happen.  I should just say what I need to say and if the other person has a question or comment, they’ll say it.  And then I can respond the specific question.

There’s no need to ramble on and on when the other person really doesn’t want to know, or doesn’t care to know – even if you feel it’s a better way to communicate.  The lesson here is respecting people’s time is really important.

If you find yourself feeling the need to carry on and give someone every detail, maybe think about how to be more direct with people.  It’ll feel uncomfortable at first, but as you get more used to it you will start to naturally get to the point quicker.

And people will appreciate it.

Image by flickr user yamagatacamille

 

How To Properly Email Intro Two People

I have recently noticed I am introducing more people to each other.  It’s enjoyable and something that falls into my “pay it forward” bucket.

But, through this process I have also learned how to properly execute an introduction so both people get the most out of the experience.  The last thing you want to do is burn a contact by flooding their inbox with unwanted introductions, placing yet another time commitment on their already full plate.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 12.25.35 PM

It takes a bit of social intelligence to best set up the introduction.  Here are a few thoughts as you go about connecting people in your life.

  • If someone you know asks you to introduce them to another contact, first determine what they are looking for so you can determine if it’s actually a good idea, and something you are willing to associate yourself with.
  • If not, graciously decline or let them know it doesn’t seem like a good fit for what they are requesting.  Maybe offer someone else you think might work better.
  • Then, touch base with the requested person first and brief them with the idea of introducing a contact to them.  Answer their inevitable question of “what do I get out of it?”  If they are favorable, ask them if they mind if you email intro them to this other person.
  • Do not just throw an unwanted email into their email box without first checking with them to see if they are willing to respond and follow through with meeting the person.
  • If you get the green light, send an email with both in the TO: field.
  • Give the email a subject such as “Jane <> Joe” so it’s obvious it’s an introduction.
  • Give a short description of each person and why they are looking to meet the other, make it brief but pointed and include why the two people will add value to each other.  The person’s ask should be front and center.
  • Suggest a coffee meeting, phone call or chat over a beer or something that sets the expectations of the interaction.
  • End it by saying “I’ll let you two take it from here” so you can step aside and allow the two people to communicate without them feeling like they need to keep you CC’d or included in future emails.

Although basic stuff, if not executed correctly email intro’s can do more harm than good.  Take note!

Note: I am writing this because I have seen a few intro’s botched in my day, and if not careful, a person can burn social capital by annoying people they are connected with.  Also, when you are on the receiving end of an intro, acknowledge and thank the person doing the introduction and place them in BC, so they are them removed from future communications.

Image by flickr user n_corboy

How To Approach Investors

I was asked a straightforward question by another founder recently.  “How should I approach a potential investor?”

Although it’s a straightforward question, the answer is quite nuanced and depends on the specific situation at hand.  All investors are different and appreciate being approached in varied ways.  So given that, here’s what I responded with through email. (I have removed any details that would suggest a certain person or industry)

A) Connection
You need to find someone who you connect with and have a similar view on things. This is why I suggested talking with people that are already into ____________.  They should at least “get” your idea and thinking behind it. An investor that usually puts money into software companies probably won’t get it.

So I think you need to continue to look deeper in that community. But you can’t just send an email and ask for their money right up front. Everyone’s knee jerk reaction is no. This is the biggest mistake people make, just like the guys that hit on the women at the bar. Instant turn off. You need to do what you are doing with me and get to know them, allow them to get to know you and your idea. Don’t worry about “giving away your idea” as I have learned it’s better to connect with many people and hopefully there’s a possible business relationship than keeping your mouth shut and then nothing happens. Ideas are a dime a dozen… work on extending your relations with people in the industry.

B) Early success
Most all investors need to see early success indicators. That is why if you can show some early traction as well as some profit, they investors are way more willing to put in some money to help it grow. Although ideas are a dime a dozen, that’s all they are. But a product that has shown some early promise is music to an investors ears. They need to be able to see it, feel it and touch the prototype, or in your case see your early small tests as successes. Once you can show them real numbers you then build out your model of future projections – based on your real numbers – and show them how their money will be multiplied.

C) Trust
The last one is you need to find people who you trust, and who trust you. This goes back to a) in the way I say find someone you connect with. Turning the tables and looking at it from their point of view…. some random guy is emailing them and asking them to put money in something they don’t know anything about. Basically, they don’t trust you. So you need to work on finding someone you can work towards trusting, and he can work towards trusting you. This takes time.

That’s why your lead into the relationship is more like “hey, I have some ideas I want to run by you, I would appreciate your perspective on these ideas…” Don’t even mention money for the first few interactions, and when it comes up you can say something more like “to scale to the level we want to we would need some capital investment. I’m starting to look around, do you know anyone who would be interested?”

Finding investors to put money into your company is hard enough, make it easier on yourself by doing some legwork first.

What’s Work Life Balance?

Holy cow, I just looked at the date of my last post and it reads March 2nd, 2014.  A whole month went by and I haven’t been able to write a single post!  What the hell happened?

Have I been too busy?

Maybe.

Have I been a little lazy and chosen other things to do rather than writing?

Probably.

Have I been in a psyche funk, where up is down and left is right?

Kinda.

As I evaluate it, it’s all these things.  My life has been extra crazy recently:

  • with my original startup Seconds hanging in limbo with an interested party sitting on the sidelines wanting who knows what
  • with a contract job coming to an end leaving me to figure out how to pay the bills
  • with a new contract job coming together just at the right time so I didn’t lose my shirt off my back
  • with a new company almost ready to roll out publicly and make a HUGE announcement
  • With side projects like Founders RAW nipping at me to put more time and resources into
  • with random happenings in my personal life, all hoping I can isolate a little time to keep myself sane

Your life might sound the same, so this list begs the question – what is work life balance anyway?

The answer I am figuring out is there is no such thing as work life balance if you are a hustling entrepreneur.  Or better said, “it ain’t equal parts work and life.”  It’s just life.  If you are on the cusp of doing something extraordinary, new, innovative – or extreme – there’s no real way to work normal hours and feel like you have much free time for anything else.  You end up working all hours of the day, or at least thinking about “things” all hours of the day.

It just can’t be both ways.

Either you are coasting in a job and have time and energy to do many different things outside of your profession/business responsibilities; or you are hustling, pushing the limits – placing the chess pieces as I often say – and positioning yourself for future success.

I’m am coming to grips with the reality that it can’t be an even balance of work and personal life at one specific point in time.  You have to choose to excel at one or the other, or you’ll fail at both.

The Road Ahead

I have often said being an entrepreneur feels like you are a circus clown on a unicycle, riding on a tightrope and juggling 5 different things at the same time.

Yep, that’s pretty much what I am doing right about now and it feels a bit crazy.  My hope is that it settles down a bit as we get these things in motion.

Below is a glimpse into the road(s) I am looking down right now and if all goes as planned it will be most of my career focus.  They might be general – on purpose – but they are the trends of the next 20 years and industries I am both interested in and feel are at inflection points historically.

Payments – mobile and otherwise

road

Most of you know I have been in the mobile payment space for a few years now.  Our first try with Seconds payments didn’t go as smoothly as we had hoped.  BUT, we learned something really valuable – remote mobile payment/billing is going to be huge.

We learned this from realizing the act of forcing someone to make a payment with their mobile device while standing in line at a coffee shop/target/local market/etc actually takes more time and is more complicated than giving cash or card.  The end solution just has to save all parties valuable time.  It will be years before this becomes commonplace and who knows how much it will take (billions invested) to make it happen.

But, you know all those letters you received (or still receive) from utility companies, munipalities and other entities basically telling you 1) here’s the total you owe and 2) here’s where you send the check or 3) log in at this url to pay?  Well, we can save people a lot of time and hassle with a new direct mobile billing experience.  That can all be achieved by a simple notification on your mobile device informing you of a balance due, should you opt into receiving it.  And with your payment credentials already in the system all you need to do is simply respond with “pay” and it’s all taken care of.   Business gets paid, consumers account is cleared, no re-entering payment credentials… Simple.

Yep, we got that in the pipeline.

Cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin

Since I am in the payment/financial space I have been watching the rise of Bitcoin for some time now.  It’s very interesting to say the least and everyone has an opinion.

Here’s mine: the world needs a new mechanism for payments to flow around the world and Bitcoin feels like it’s the one.  As both a currency and a technology, it will not only transform money as we know it is but also its place within this new digital/mobile/worldwide economy.  As a speculative commodity, no one knows if the value will hold ($500), massively increase ($100k) or completely tank ($1).  We’ll have to see, but my guess is that its value will not be the greatest impact Bitcoin will have on our world.  As for regulation, the government will have to figure out how to play nice and guide it towards positive impact on our country and world.  I don’t see it completely taking the role of the U.S. dollar so I think that argument is flawed and used politically to take a side, similar to the silly spat between Republicans and Democrats in this country.

So please remember today’s incarnation of Bitcoin will not be tomorrow’s…  merely turning your head and shushing the noise is the wrong answer.  Just as there were many naysayers in 1994 and 1995 about the web, we are seeing something truly transformative take shape and I don’t want to look back in 10-20 years and kick myself for not getting involved in the movement.

That being said, yep…. the road also includes some things around Bitcoin.  It should be an interesting year.

Internet of Things – API’s of life

Another interesting phenomenon starting to take shape is the so-called Internet of Things.  I am not sure I like that term but we’ll agree it means a world where everything is “smart” and “connected” to everything else via the web and sensors.  Just imagine what can be automated or programmed when devices and objects – previously “dumb” and non-economic actors in our world (tables, chairs, driveways, houses, bikes, cars, etc…) are brought online and provided an identity.  Then include an economic identity (hhmm like using something like bitcoin…. now are you are starting to get it?) and allow humans to communicate with and pay and be paid by machines.  The possibilities are endless.

Even more basic is the ability to start automating things in your life.  If you have heard of IFTTT (If This, Than That) you know what I am talking about.  Basically, it means you can set triggers in the world, that when activated, will result in an action you previously determined.   These triggers are offered by various web based components in the form of API’s (Application Programming Interface) which allows you to tap into and easily integrate with other technologies.  For example, if I leave the house (known because my GPS on my mobile) then lower the temperature in my house by 5 degrees.   If Bitcoin falls below a certain price ($300), purchase X more for me.  You get the picture.

Yep, something like that’s in the works as well.

Health Technology – Wearable devices

An amazing area for innovation using connected and wearable technologies is health care.  We are wondering what is possible once people wear something(s) that are able to monitor and collect up to the second data regarding our vital heath?

Given my background in health I am immensely interested in the future of preventative health tracking, and we are in the process of laying out our first attempt at it.  Imagine wearing a small device that, when it senses a certain vital sign has fallen out of the standard deviation for this specific individual, sends a notification to family and medial team with actionable instructions?  Imagine how many heart attacks could be prevented if we knew the second someone was “about to go there”?  Now, I know this vision could collide with the scary notion of Big Brother NSA, but I have a feeling the pendulum will swing back toward a better equilibrium of personal safety and information security.

Yes, although it might be a bit on the horizon this is down the road for me as well.

Content Creation - Founders RAW

The last one is video.  We are starting to see more online video created and watched each day, month and year.   And it’s easier than ever to create and distribute video, especially through social media.  I intent on continuing my work on Founders RAW and experimenting with online media.   Founders RAW is a great playground, since it falls inline with entrepreneurship and founding of technology companies.  My goal is to continue to talk to founders and put out high quality content for all of us to enjoy and benefit from.  It will be interesting to see how content and video grows from here, how we all can take part in it.

So there you have it.

If you are tired from simply reading it, how do you think I feel?  My mind is spinning with all these possibilities and opportunities.  While it may seem like I have some random form of ADD (might be true) it’s more like all these opportunities came to me in the last few months.  Some are being built as we speak.  Some are on their way.  Some are in brainstorming and prototyping stages.  Some might not make it into production, but all are well thought out and well positioned to become something great in the future.  I hope to be a part of them all.

It’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.

Image by Flickr user oatsy40.