Yesterday a group of students from my alma mater, the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce, came to visit. They were spending a week in Silicon Valley as part of their spring break.
I've long privately urged McIntire to become more entrepreneur friendly. When I was a student at U.Va. in the late 90's, it was a very unfriendly place for entrepreneurs. It seems that things are finally changing, and the fact that these students were in California on spring break says a lot about their enthusiasm for tech startups. I've also written in the past about how high school students have seemed more receptive and responsive to becoming entrepreneurs than college students. It's almost like if one doesn't get introduced to the hunger to be an entrepreneur at young age, it becomes hard to impossible to stoke it later. But this trip made me feel like there's hope for helping people find a passion for entrepreneurship later in life. No matter what, though, I stressed to the students that came to visit that the passion had to come from within them. The best a school can do is support those that want it badly enough to try.
We spent an hour together, and I shared stories with them about how I paid for college by making UVa-branded Frisbees, and sold a card called the Hoos Savings Club Card. (It was way ahead of it's time -- basically an analog version of a daily deals service like Groupon). Here are some related pics:
I'd go around to shops in the Charlottesville area, get them to agree to provide discounts to students for the school year, print the discounts on the back of the card, and sell the card for $20 to students. For anyone in college today, it's a concept that would work just as well now as it did 15 years ago, and it's a great way to make $20k to $50k while you're in school, if you're willing to have a little bit of hustle.
McIntire has always done a stellar job (and I mean, a really stellar job) of preparing students for the business world. Now I'm hopeful that it can start producing an environment that fosters the blossoming of passionate founders who want to -- and are capable of-- changing the world.
Here's the video of our session: (Thanks Isaac for joining!)
Here's a transcript of the session:
DANIEL: Alright, guys so your trip is almost over, right?
PARTICIPANT: Yes this is it.
DANIEL: Oh really, so…
PARTICIPANT: The grand finale.
DANIEL: We will meet in a bar?
DANIEL: [Could not understand] How long are you guys staying, like are you leaving town tonight, tomorrow?
PARTICIPANT: Tomorrow night.
DANIEL: Are you doing anything, like is there a party tonight or anything?
PARTICIPANT: We will figure out something. Yes.
DANIEL: We are not going to tell you over here. That’s awesome, and you guys are all [Could not understand] students?
DANIEL: What years are you like? 4th year?
PARTICIPANT: Combination, 3rd, 4th grad.
DANIEL: Okay awesome, cool. And welcome it’s really great to have you out here. One of the things I think is coolest about you guys in here is when I was in commerce school I was the weird guy and was an entrepreneur. Like there was no entrepreneurial community so when I was there. And it sounds like that’s changed. Like I don’t know exactly about it but I went back a little bit. But is there stuff going on now?
PARTICIPANT: Yup. There’s lot of stuff going on.
DANIEL: Like isn’t there an entrepreneur group in comm school?
PARTICIPANT: Yes, there’s a track. There’s an entrepreneurship track.
DANIEL: Track? Oh really?
DANIEL: Oh that’s crazy.
PARTICIPANT: Yeah yeah.
DANIEL: Wow, pretty awesome, that’s great. How many of you want to be entrepreneurs raise your hands. That’s most of you. When I was there I can remember I went up to New York, investment banking etc. [Could not understand]
PARTICIPANT: [Could not understand]
DANIEL: Yes. I wonder if any… Jack [Could not understand] is still there?
PARTICIPANT: This is his last year.
DANIEL: Oh wow. I know if you guys know Jack, he’s awesome. He’s… see I did marketing so I was like soft… I didn’t go onto any hardcore, Jack is [Could not understand] Pretty cool.
What do you guys want to do and how long do we have? We have an hour?
PARTICIPANT: We have an hour.
DANIEL: Before the mystery party starts.
DANIEL: What do you guys want to talk about? What would you like to make sure we cover today? Tell me what’s on your mind, so I’m here for you, so I’ve got a bunch of stuff I could talk about but I want to know what you guys want to talk about, we need… Yeah
PARTICIPANT: I would want to know what you are working on now.
DANIEL: Sure, we can definitely do that. Here I will give a chair up for…
PARTICIPANT: Oh no it’s fine I’m cool here.
DANIEL: Alright I will talk about my background; we can do that what else?
PARTICIPANT: What as far as your skills coming out and Mc Tyre or you sort of develop on your own after you left and came out here?
DANIEL: Okay, let me actually write these down. Because I want to make sure let me cover them all. So one second…
Alright so background, Mac n Tyre, skills, or lack of, I will talk about that, okay what else? What you guys are most curious about like you’ve been to see what like Caribbean B, you saw my brother Sam, right? You get to meet him?
DANIEL: Awesome. You must have met TJ?
PARTICIPANT: We are everywhere.
DANIEL: Yeah, we are. So you seem like, so you get to see like small startups, you actually saw big startups. What are the things that you want to hear more about like? You guys want to be entrepreneurs, you want to talk a little bit about what being entrepreneur is like? Like we could talk a little bit about that as well.
Okay, being an entrepreneur. Do you want to know all about what our startup does? Like I don’t need to tell you ‘cause I live it every day, so if you don’t want to know I don’t need to tell you that.
PARTICIPANT: I love to hear that.
DANIEL: Do you want to know, okay alright, this might take a little longer then. He’s my, he’s my, so there’s three founders of socialize, and Isaac’s one of them.
PARTICIPANT: And when you say they were doing the first start with me. (Laughs) He got me into this.
DANIEL: Alright, cool. Alright so we’ll start with that, and we’ll see where it takes us and us only got an hour so we’ve already got a couple of hours’ worth of stuff to talk about. Before I really talk a lot I like to distill an exercise with you guys. So lot of you said you wanted to be entrepreneurs.
First of all you should know that I’m taping, so there’s a camera in the back. I always capture content so that I could talk a little bit about why. But anybody feel uncomfortable with that being there, like this on my blog later. If you are stand in the back of this room. So, I will do a little bit of my background, I will talk a little bit of being an entrepreneur and we’ll go there and we’ll talk a little bit of about socialize and I’m sure you will have lot of questions on the way.
Like I said I’m here for you, so I’m really literally just doing this for you guys. So I’ll talk about anything you guys want to. Have to one day this for others to consider in this space.
So okay I’m going to start with a little exercise here, which is this. So being an entrepreneur, this is what being an entrepreneur is like. Okay, here’s a dollar if anybody that wants it.
PARTICIPANT: I want it, but it’s a little far away.
DANIEL: Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. This guy took it first. Okay, alright here’s a $20 bill for anybody that wants it. You going to always win when you know it are there to grab it. But it’s hard, doing impossible stuff lot of times. So okay that feeling you guys had when you were looking at the dollar like should I take it, should I not take it what do people going to think about me if I say something, that’s what being an entrepreneur is like every second of every day for years. You’re like always feeling that way. Because when you’re a founder of a company you’re creating something from nothing, you’re doing something impossible… like by definition, whatever doing is impossible because nobody’s done it before because if it’s done it before it’d already be done.
Right, so you’re basically doing impossible stuff every day and you have to break social norms and break boundaries and be really uncomfortable every second of every day for years. And this thing is gets like really romanticize like oh being a founder is awesome, you know, but really it’s this unbalance life, it’s very stressful.
PARTICIPANT: Sometimes you can get fridges.
DANIEL: Yeah, exactly. You know, there are people in your lives that feel like you are not prioritizing them because you’re not, you forget about a dinner date you are supposed to go out on, because you’re trying to figure out a problem in your head and it’s like encompassing every waking moment, first though because if you don’t figure it out then you don’t get that funding or that investment and you don’t ship that product or whatever it is.
So it’s a really stressful thing, and if you’re smart, I would recommend you not do it; you go out in investment banking and go make a lot of money. But if you’re crazy enough to want to do it then it’s a passion. There’s no logic or reason, it’s a masochistic thing, like it’s hard but if you want to do it there is nothing exciting than being an entrepreneur. That was like a little taste of what it was like and you have to be really aggressive, like it’s hard to get to, you got to climb over that table.
PARTICIPANT: I made it. I was going to go up.
DANIEL: [Could not understand] I saw you but somebody was even faster, right that happens all the time. And it happens all the time. So I guess, you know, one of the first things I want to share with you guys is like being an entrepreneur is a state of mind, it’s seeing an opportunity and it’s going after that opportunity. And that’s like the number 1 thing.
So my story is, you know, my dad’s an immigrant from Coast Arica, he came to the US with $20 in pocket that was his story. My mom was from Nebraska which is weird, which is why I don’t look super Latino myself. But I didn’t have lot of money growing, yeah we weren’t poor poor like my friends were getting $20 a week allowances and I was getting a quarter.
So like my story started early and I really believed that being an entrepreneur is something that is learned and not something genetic. Anybody can do it. But, you know, when we moved to hendin Virginia, there were like, you know, no homes out there, we were like in this new development track. And my dad was like so he moved in and then construction workers building all the houses and stuff. Then my dad was like hey Danny, he called me Danny back then, like I bet those construction workers are really thirsty. I was like Dad I bet they are. He said he had taken me to a Costco which is back then and we buy sodas and then I put them into this wheel barrel that I modified so that I don’t have to lift it up, roller skates and like trucks on it. And like I put a cooler in it and I put ice in the cooler and I put the sodas in them and I sell them for 50 cents, and I bought them 25 cents, I sell them for 50 cents. And I was like making couple of dollars when I was 8 years old. And I tried to get my friends involved but they were all getting $20 a week allowances, and so nobody was as motivated as I was.
And then I had a long ride to school I went to TJ, right I lived in Herndon, 2 years in Alexandria so I would sell candy bars. I bought candy bars at Costco and I ride home and all these students were hungry, so I literally like take candy bars out of the bag to school and then on the ride home I sold them out, and make like 12 – 15 dollars a day which is pretty good when you’re at school, at least back then. I had to bribe the bus driver with the baby bruise every day, so let me do it.
I sold parking spaces at TJ, like I went around to the homes that were next to the school, I was like, they are at work all day with empty parking spaces, so I made them like $50 for the whole school year, and then I sold the spots to students at $100, parked like 4 cars in those spaces. Like this is all stuff that’s just like looking at opportunity, like where is the opportunity, right? It’s all around us if we are hungry enough and motivated enough to see it.
When I was in college I went to college myself. My dad was like great who’s going to pay for it? So, we did this thing like whose savings club card which is not around anymore. But we basically went around like Kruger and peace frogs and all these companies like on Barracks road, with the white spot and I got them all together with discounts. And I printed this credit card, and on the back, it’s basically like groupon analog. Like I printed a card that looked like a credit card that had discounts that were valid for the school year on the back of the card. So it was like, a dollar off at the white spot, so pay $20 for the card you can use the card for the whole school year. And the businesses were happy to get the discount because it brought in business for them, right.
Like any business are interested to make margin, probably give a little bit to get that revenue in the door. So, I printed these cards up and I sold them for $20 a card and I sold them at Kroger while I was in college, you know, I’d be like hey you don’t have to go to Kroger, 5% off Kroger, you know, if you use this card a couple of times you’re going to use during the school year you’re going to get your money back, here spend this $20 which costs 5 cents to print.
I made Frisbees, so I licensed the UEA logo from the athletic department, I made UVA branded Frisbees, I don’t know if they are still being sold, like mincers, the UVA book store, you know, my cost is $3 per Frisbee then I sell them to Mincer for $7 and they sold them for $14. So, you know, it’s just finding opportunity I think is like one of the first things I want to impress on you guys. And that opportunity is all around you, and if you’re not an entrepreneur and you want to do waiting, then you’re really not ready to be an entrepreneur. Like I had to be an entrepreneur to pay for college. And you have to want to do it today. And there’s no reason if you can’t be doing it right now. I think that’s like really my main message to you guys. So, that’s a little bit about my story.
After college I went to work for GE in their technical leadership program which I hated, I mean it’s great in some ways I was working Argentina, Brazil and then Austria when I was 22 years old. But I really was an entrepreneur my whole life doing that and paying for my college on the side. And then I have done other things, I met this guy Isaac in 2007 probably, right?
PARTICIPANT: January 2007.
DANIEL: And then we started [Could not understand] which was this app development company. In 2008 we made apps for large companies we built mobile apps for Washington Post iPhone app, we built cars.com iPhone app, we built Newsfeed app, Disney iPad apps. Those were really big expensive consulting projects. Then we made our first product, right which is obviously very different from consulting, we made AppMaker. Have any of you guys heard of AppMaker by any chance?
Cool. Perfect timing, man. So we made AppMaker, and AppMaker is a way for making anyone to make an app. So we believed in mobile early on, and the power of [Could not understand] smartphone where walking around with all of humanities knowledge in like a compact, and it’s incredible. And it’s never happened before. We’ve really believed that it is a big deal that back in the beginning when nobody else thought it is.
PARTICIPANT: Everybody said we are [Could not understand], like we are and they said apps will be bad [Could not understand]
DANIEL: Yeah yeah exactly.
PARTICIPANT: The same [Could not understand]
DANIEL: So, that’s my story a little bit. I don’t know, you want to tell your story, ‘cause Isaac’s the one usually that makes the magic happen.
ISAAC: We all depend on each other to make this happen. But my background. I went to George Mason University, Dallas so working at again, working for bigger corporations. I worked for XM radio, and it says, you know, you go in and you go out and, you know, you get your paycheck but like Daniel I really wanted to do my thing. I deal with the politics and bad decisions that were making the place and how we really want to… [Could not understand] with big corporations so, I know this sounds similar.
But I got out of there and I ended up meeting with this guy and, like he said we just got to believe in something, we believed that it was actually to change the way we are working. It was a really big bet and like he was saying at the very beginning you always have people doubting you every single step of the way. What you need to do is choose something you really believe in. You cannot do it because you think that there’s going to be money in the end. Of course there will be if it’s successful but do it because you are passionate about it, because no matter what level you are, you are, like I’m a developer, you know, I am one of the developers at that day.
And you have to be selling the entire time, you know you have to be selling yourself or you are going to be, knocked down by a lot by investors, by people who are going to get good idea, by partners who don’t think it’s a good idea. But whatever you are that you are doing, make sure that you are passionate about it. Actually even if it is a big corporation because, you know, it’s really hard because it’s going to be just giving your stuff which you believe in it almost like a religion. So that’s what we have to do from the very beginning. They asked a little bit about us. Also when we build socialize we first what do you get, what questions you guys have for us?
DANIEL: Yeah, go ahead.
PARTICIPANT: We all had the opportunity to meet your brother the other day. And when we all went out afterwards, he said that did you guys got them all was very supportive with us. He was talking about your entrepreneurial journey [Could not understand] startup. I was going to ask like how you gotten [Could not understand]
DANIEL: It’s funny because like, you know, our dad was the one that helped us become entrepreneurs, like to find nice security, but also, you know, I think there’s this inherent mentality where it’s like you need to have security. Like there’s so much opportunity in this country, if you can go get any good high paying job then you should do that. And, you know, that’s what I went and did, right after college. I went and I worked for GE, but we both have these crazy risk profiles where we have this, we were willing to take big bets, and you can take a big bet inside of a company but you’re not going to get rewarded for it. Whereas if you really have that risk profile to take it or leave it bet in Silicon Valley which is why we both ended up right here, literally it’s worth dollars in your pocket.
And there’s a talk in DC about how, you know, DC is the next Silicon Valley. I tell you what in Silicon Valley they never talk about DC; right I mean like in other places they are all always comparing themselves to here. And I think that if you’re serious about being an entrepreneur, there are so many things that are out of your control that you have to be really good about optimizing and maximizing success factors for the things that are in your control. And where you live is one of those things. So the reason I moved out here, you can say I moved out here is because it was where the most opportunity was for us. We could have stayed in DC and talk about how DC is coming, or how [Could not understand] is coming.
And I hate to say it, because I love Shartzwatz, it’s a great town. But the reality is, if you are really serious about being a founder, about being an entrepreneur and making millions or billions of dollars, you just have to optimize for it. And so you really have to be out there. I should have moved out here 10 years ago. But, you know, I didn’t I stayed in DC. So, you know, I wished I would have moved out here sooner.
PARTICIPANT: Can we talk about what personality characteristics compose that risk profile that even you and your [Could not understand] have?
DANIEL: Yeah, by the way I’m too lazy to turn these off. You know it’s seeing an opportunity is I think is one of the main things. I just gave you bunch of examples when I was in your place. Literally I would, you know, Macintyre has this awesome like stadium seating desks and I don’t know if they still do that but they got the name tags right here, you have your name tag. So my name tag said, you know, Dan R ODO by who savings cart, click on me, for me asking more. You know that was my name tag. They’re like who is this guy, is he going to sell us some cards, like, you know, it’s just, oh… it’s just, you know, that’s I think one of the things is just really being focused on seeing that opportunity, that’s 1.
The next is being too willing to take a risk; often time’s people see an opportunity but then not willing to take a risk. I tell you what, I know people think it’s harder, it’s one of the easiest things, well actually yesterday was the easiest that’ll ever be to be an entrepreneur. Today is harder than yesterday, and tomorrow will be harder than today. And when you had mortgages and things and all of that stuff is going to be a thousand times harder now. So, the longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be.
So, I think that’s the other thing you should be willing to take risks. Because right now you did you are either profitable and see that if you did, in 10 years you’re not going to be sitting down with that one.
So, I think those are probably, if you got one of those two and you can really do anything. And you probably fail a lot but the only way you sure not a failure is fail to try. But it’s like Vinod Khosla is an awesome VC and the way he talk, he’s like I invest in things that fail 90% of the time, doesn’t that sound like terrible odds, and then he’s like those 10% odds of changing the world doesn’t that sound awesome? Right.
Right, other questions. As you can tell I can talk about being entrepreneur all day long.
PARTICIPANT: About the personality types, the founders, companies or whoever work in operations. So I think you’re a developer or something, you don’t seem like a guy’s, you know, risky of a profile because they send the opportunity, so…
DANIEL: Let me recap your question a bit. So, how many of guys know how to code, raise your hand if you know how to code.
Wow, just tell me like what you code in.
PARTICIPANT: CSharp, VB. You’re going to have no problem.
DANIEL: Okay, awesome.
PARTICIPANT: Java and C++ right now.
DANIEL: Okay, same awesome.
PARTICIPANT: Same thing. Html, we talked about the other part of the code.
DANIEL: Okay, that’s great, that’s a great start because, you know, when someone’s pulling a chain so none of the rest you guys know how to code?
PARTICIPANT: Like what you’re doing these days, you all raised your hands and said you all want to be entrepreneurs. And I’m making an assumption when you want to become an entrepreneur is intact. Right, if you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you want to start a dairy farm then this conversation is over.
Most of you just told me you want to be entrepreneurs in tech. But you don’t know how to code. That’s like saying I want to be a bus driver but I don’t know how to drive vehicle, let alone I don’t have a driver’s license. So that’s like the first thing if you are serious about this, you know, it’s going to be a whole lot easier for you if you know how to code. But if you can find someone who knows how to code and that sort of gets like to what you’re saying like everything you want to work for somebody else, you’re just a proxy for their success. Right, so you are trading off to reduce risk for a way lower outside when you work for somebody else. So, yeah you can do that if that’s what you are all about. But if you know how to code, if you know how to build these things these ideas that you have in your head and you are willing to take the risk to do it then you’re unstoppable.
I mean you’re literally unstoppable. So, it’s not easy but I mean just pick a language, and at least do a hello world at least to understand what the basic code.
I didn’t push production code a couple of years and I feel terrible about that, like I’ve gotten very complacent and these guys are so good. And like marketing, my next thing is going to is to go back into it, because that’s where I have to practice since I have been since years to push production code.
PARTICIPANT: So we were to learn to code to production what is it like?
DANIEL: Depends on this guy probably can give the answer.
ISAAC: Sure, I will start first the other real benefit of coding is just for you to know what’s going on, but often you got to think is the very logical process, right. So it’s like things are at a certain stage for instance and if this happens then this will happen also. And then the way you think about things can get very complex, so turn to solve a problem very complex problems, you can start using the kind of the learning and the thought process of how you break it down into code. You can even apply it to almost anything like literally HR or your business organization structure, financing, right.
So there’s just a lot of places you can take that logic. Now I’m just using it for building a website. So, what’s the first thing to learn to code? I don’t know I think the first thing would be I would definitely start with putting a, like your own blog, right. Because I think that sort of things professor Daniel get into this too. Literally we were just talking about the value of having your own blog. And blogging and content creation right before you guys came up here. And you literally got a business call just because of this.
So, it was, I don’t know what was it, rare article. But I would say definitely put up your own blog, just take a step of putting up your own blog, don’t go sign up for it, like don’t just like register and put it up and then start changing things on the page. Start dropping in like little plug ins, say starting with very very simple but it serves the purpose of actually, you know, one – you are learning, you are introducing yourself to the code and very well documented as to how to verb a blog or something like that.
DANIEL: Try word press install.
ISAAC: Exactly, it’s very simple to get started. But the second thing you are doing is that you are starting a blog, just out marketing yourself as yourself, right. That is part of, you know, Daniel is part of the socialize and before that he is part of GE. But Daniel’s blog first and foremost markets himself. So he becomes a valuable entity, a valuable resource for information. The knowledge just because he gained earlier, you know, like Kim Kardarshian she’s not popular for any reason except she’s really good at marketing herself. Right, she’s got blogs, she’s got Twitter, she’s on Facebook, but she hasn’t done a damn thing.
But she makes a lot of money, and she’s just really good at marketing herself. And so, and you don’t really notice that until you, you know, you see other people of what they’ve done. I think that would be the best way to start.
DANIEL: I’d say like that is just a fantastic way to just do something where it’s going to give you immediate value, really that’s like the main thing. So, if you want to does something in mobile then learns it’s from very easy like HTML5 or hybrid apps where this thing called Phone Gap. It’s not like super hardcore no coding, it’s like learn how to code in iOS, learn xCode or learn Java for Android. You know, there’s like a whole spectrum there. And do something which is going to provide you with immediate value, or else you are just not going to be motivated entrepreneurs.
Okay two questions, so start with you and then him...
PARTICIPANT: What are your thoughts on code academy?
DANIEL: I think it’s awesome, I think it’s a great example. I just actually did a blog, so we’ll talk about a little about blogging here. So like for example I just did a blog about managers… [Could not understand] and in this blog I was talking about using something code Academy so much it’s a great…
ISAAC: I think it’s very good. I’m a professional coder in many languages. But I still do backend and checking apps.
DANIEL: Okay, so next question.
PARTICIPANT: My question is more about, what do you like, look out like apps like for developing. I know there are a lot of them like you don’t need any of the code behind; you can just like do in that common man’s language and that will convert the code for you? What do you think of those? Should you really learn the app development yourself, or like you can just do some of that?
DANIEL: Okay so everything first set some goals. I would ask you the question like what’s your goal. Is your goal to learn to code? Or is your goal to get an app out of it? Because you got an awesome idea and want to get it out in the marketplace and get MVP and will buy product and see if it succeeds or fails.
So if you don’t have that burning idea and you still faraway to do it, then I would say, 1 goal that I would propose to guys is doing something I think that could be very valuable, instead of just learning general; and then you would want to actually learn code and combine that with the next big idea. I think first you set some goals right. Yeah
PARTICIPANT: I want to ask you a little bit more about risk to fail a lot of talk different cultures like how often you do different [Could not understand]. The way I learned about [Could not understand] is like when you just start whatever you are starting, like successful entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily giants [Could not understand], like typically you want to. You want to bet the farm every morning you wake up [Could not understand] like push forward, you know, like typically you want to do somewhat…
DANIEL: I would disagree; I think a great example is recently Apple. Like Apple is a great example of a large multi-billion dollar corporations that cannibalize itself. Now this company is how this innovator dilemma, where they are like oh, we are making billions of dollars of whatever we are doing. We don’t need to take a risk of doing anything else. And then overtime they became irrelevant. And really that’s the thing it’s the worst for, any businesses becoming irrelevant. Doesn’t matter if people love you or hate you if you can iterate often posts. If people hate you at least they care enough to hate you. But if they just don’t care that’s when you are really in trouble. But, you know, Apple is willing to like it’s, you know, all of their tablet focus is really feeding into their lack for laptop sales and they didn’t grow on last quarter very little because of tablets. They are like yeah we are cannibalizing ourselves.
So I really would disagree, but again this is just my perspective but I really think you have to be very risk compare to [Could not understand].
ISAAC: Actually to that point you guys are familiar with like Google 20% out by own car project? That’s essentially them building risk into their everyday system. So what they are saying is, well there’s no way that we’re going to be cutting edge, right. If we are not taking risks of some way or another, this is what they said so literally 20% of their company employee can’t and they said there’s something could be made out of this, or something couldn’t be. But there’s no way that anybody could predict what will actually come out of that 20% fund. But they built it in there to take those risks, so they are taking a lot of resources and money into building risk right into their daily, kind of weekly process.
Right, and then of course, you know, you will get things that come out there are like Gmail, I mean so that’s more enough for you to [Could not understand]. You learn ads businesses have come out of that. So, this is the way they, I guess what we would do I could say that everybody takes risks variably, so that SanFrancisco combine in particular worse and so that iterations, they even had a conference call called fail con, which is all about failing and taking those risks and failing so I think [Could not understand]. We take risks and we do it on purpose, and as long as it’s systematic and we understand what we are getting ourselves into, I think its okay we need to do at this level. I mean pushing out products and you know., are controversial within the team you’re like ah that’s going to be thing we are going to figure it out, and if it fails move it aside.
PARTICIPANT: What are the most things valuable or not valuable [Could not understand]
DANIEL: There are like 10 [Could not understand].
DANIEL: I don’t know I got to think about it, I guess. I don’t know most valuable thing for you? Probably the most important thing is that I am happy that I tried. Actually I will give you a quote…
ISAAC: Real quick from me is that, they are unavailable, and we should be taking probably only taking a lot. Risk taking actually failures, but I think the more important thing is how you deal with failures mentally because the biggest thing is that you are on the emotional quota is like quite high. Today is a bad day, and tomorrow is going to be a really good day, tomorrow is a bad day, right. You constantly go up and down. So what I’ve taken out of this is how do I deal with failures emotionally and mentally, and how to move on to the next one, and just move these aside.
DANIEL: One kind of related answer is some of the best things that I’ve done I’ve done App priority I thought it was too late, one thing that I realized over time, you know, I’ll just be like ah they probably already left, I’m going to be asking them anyway. Are you in a feeling that ah it’s probably too late like in [Could not understand] you just stop and you don’t do it when they think that. I’m like; okay I’m going to try anyways. And I found that some of the best things that I’ve done because I just put that little bit of extra effort that nobody else deal with. That little bit of extra effort is too late, so. You turn the smiles and I go probably [Could not understand] Yeah.
PARTICIPANT: Since you already released few apps to the market, what will be your two to three best advice for a person releasing app to market or an organization after you release it in terms of like marketing and getting, get out there and choose people of high level value or people in front of the Apple’s for that matter.
DANIEL: Since you create apps, are you currently creating app?
PARTICIPANT: Have an app releasing in the market within the… next by end of March.
DANIEL: Cool, what kind of app is that? Out of curiosity.
PARTICIPANT: It’s a utility, it’s called Junk Mode, hide your contacts when you put them into Junk. So you can’t call junk ex people.
DANIEL: That’s awesome.
DANIEL: Okay, well I’m going to make an assumption that not everybody is as interested in mobile as you are. So we might want to have a little bit of more in-depth conversation later.
DANIEL: Let me just take you to the question and option A we are going to talk about mobile, kind of at a high level, and then we can see about diving into more detail. One of the things, I actually just wrote a blog about it. So, let me actually do two things. I’m going to answer your question’ish, let me also talk about blogging. I’ll talk about blogging first.
So, like what I believe is that people often misunderstanding the value of social media, especially companies? So companies often thinks that social media is summer what you had in [Could not understand]. What I believe is that social media is a more efficient channel to have a forced multiplier effect of the knowledge that you have up in your head.
So, what I mean by that, for example is I just started a real-estate company which is between GE and this business. And realtors are good ones. They have a lot of domain expertise, industry knowledge about real-estate, but they usually just have a client discussion more of 1 on 1. And I would do a lot of blogging as a real-estate broker I would, you know, when I was going to see a client I would talk into a microphone and transcribe that into a blog. Or take a video using social cam, something like it; take videos and put them up.
I would have people, when I was a broker in DC I would have people in my main contacting me and asking me if I can come and buy a house. I’m not licensed domain; there are probably 50,000 or 100,000 realtors over there. But they were calling me in DC, because I was the one kind of sharing this expertise which was in my head with people who are interested in hearing that. And just like that all of you have amazing expertise inside your heads. Alright right now even though you are still in school, you got it. Know that you got it. Because, if not you don’t get even the opportunity in school like you guys are.
So, even though you might think it’s not that big of a deal, if you can start blogging about it putting in place where others can find it, you are building a personal brand. But more importantly I say that like, henry ford loves blogs, because when he get a question like the one you just asked, instead of me spending like, let’s say you asked me over email instead of me spending 15 minutes answering it over email a bunch of times, I can spend 3 hours writing a blog about it. And then I just send you that link the next time somebody asks about it
And so there’s this assembly line, assembly of knowledge that’s happening where it’s much more efficient really. So like to answer your question let me go to my blog because I already put a lot of what you’re asking about. And a bunch of blogs actually, but this one specially, one of the things that I talked about a little bit is mobile and where I think the opportunities are.
And this is a great example, you guys heard about Automatic? Raise your hand if you heard about it. Just launched. Do you guys read hackernews, by the way? Raise your hand if you read it. Ah, we got a lot of things to talk about.
That is a great, it launched shortly. Just remind to show you hackernews. Do you guys know who Paul Graham is?
(Few hands raise)
Okay, remind to show you hackernews before you leave; you’re going to love it.
So one of the great opportunities that I see in mobile is for example this when you start up automatic, which is launched has this little accessory that plugs in under your car’s dashboard, it’s called [Could not understand] port, it’s what the mechanic uses when they’re like diagnosing your car. When your car throws trouble, throws spins for example, this little accessory connects to a smartphone app they’ve made, which is by Bluetooth, right. So think about this, like everybody’s car has had a lot of data, lot’s happening on that vehicle, how fast is somebody driving, what’s wrong with the engine, where is the car parked? How many miles does it have? When does it need the next service? All that data has always been locked up inside the car. And if humans were to look at that data it must be very confusing, some of that is not that valuable.
But this startup has created an app that then turns into something that humans care about. Like, never forget where your car is again, so it will lead you to your car using the phone’s GPS. And it maps and this accessory that pinned it when the car is turned off. No, you know, when you crash we’ll call 911 for you. The car knows when the airbag is gone off, communicates that to the app, and the app calls 911. Not only that, but you can setup text messages so that your friends get notified when you have a crash, stuff like that.
So, there’s, you know, there’s a lot like your smart driving assistant, like you can drive more, you know, greener, more efficiently because it evaluates how hard you’re pressing down your gas pedal. This to me is an awesome example of how mobile is changing every day. That data has always been there, but just hasn’t been able to successful to humans in a valuable quota. Right, so it’s not exactly what your question was.
So we can kind of talk through a lot about app marketing and stuff like that here. But I just want to like impress on you guys, you know, I actually did another blog about how I believe that a bunch of CEOs are going to get fired because they’re not looking at mobile, they’re not prioritizing mobile enough. So I actually did a blog of fortune 1000 CEOs [Could not understand] and what I talked about, you guys have seen the python movie where there is a guy that running across the field for like 10 takes and then all of a sudden he’s there, you are like stabs the guard, and the guard didn’t see him coming. That’s what’s mobile’s been for the last 10 years, it’s been on the horizon. Guess what, now it’s here. And no matter what your business is you need to be thinking about if you are mobile [Could not understand].
Why? Because this is how I’m going to be interacting with company. I’m going to be doing with a tablet or through a phone, and not through a computer. And because I, your customer wants to interact with you through this. You have to think about how you can serve me in a mobile device format. So, if you’re a diary farm like we talked about earlier, right and you produce milk. Actually I’ll give you a perfect example. So I was just got back from like a week of travelling, and I was thinking how could a rental car agency really leverage mobile?
And I was thinking, well phone knows when I’m getting close to the curb, and really what I want as a user I want to grab my bags from baggage claim, I want to walk out to the curb, and I want my car to be there. I don’t want to have to take a bus and then go to the rental car agency. Right, I just want my car to be there. So, why not reimagine renting a car entirely where I can reserve it, and I can have all my credit card information upfront and then somebody realizes that I’ve landed because all of a sudden my phone shows up off of airplane mode. Somebody comes and drives the car up to the curb and they know where I’m waiting as they can see it because I’ve given them access to my location. They’ll be like hey Mr. Rodeo here’s your car. Just drop me off at the rental agency on your way to wherever you are going.
Or maybe not even that, right but like why doesn’t anybody do that? So there’s nothing inherently mobile about renting a car except everything about renting a car can be made better through mobile device. Right, and that’s just like one example. It’s just like a little 30 second thought in my head you guys can take it in terms of billion dollar business. Now you’re great that you did, right.
So, obviously I think I’m very passionate about mobile, so may be knows that to be the case. What other questions do you guys have? Yeah.
PARTICIPANT: One more question about I guess I have foresight into the industry. How do you see augmentation, human augmentation is separate, augmentation reality transforming mobile in the next 10 years?
DANIEL: So, do you guys know, have you guys seen the Google glass? Ad for example?
(Several participants nod)
DANIEL: Has anybody not seen it? Because I will show you, it sounds like the most of you guys know about it. Alright, so okay great. So I mean that’s not exactly necessarily augmented reality per say. I actually think augmented reality is a little bit of a fad like Yelp for example had a monickle use that, or even like with your phone you can see where the restauraunts are with the camera then the apple. They might have considered no apps, I don’t think anybody use this. They’re like when you say augmented reality I think there’s like this concept of it that’s very sexy but I haven’t actually seen any applications of it I think that were great.
PARTICIPANT: Yeah did you use FaceTime?
DANIEL: No yeah, but something like Google glass is really transformative, it’s awesome. And that incorporates aspects of augmented reality where you got another layer on the world. Right, like you’ve got a data layer or you’ve got the ability to take a photo or a video and I think that is a [Could not understand] implication that’s like I was actually talking to this woman in, she is an awesome VC. Because we did a class together and I recorded it just like I’m doing now, and she was like oh, where are you recording this, and I’m like yeah culturally we are not ready for me to be doing that.
But then in a year everyone’s going to be doing that with the Google glasses. And what’s that going to mean like for cultural norms, when you don’t know if you’re being recorded or not [Could not understand] so there is some very profound and awesome and interesting changes and I think it’s very important. And I probably don’t have a lot of more than thoughts, I just accept the things, you know, really great opportunity. But maybe there is like a different force field where [Could not understand] Yeah.
PARTICIPANT: Do you not consider Kinect and like that type of stuff augment reality would like your motion would…
DANIEL: Yeah I mean, probably and I think in augmented reality a little bit more as additional layers on top of, so like we’re analog, obviously, we are digital. And that makes life very messy. Right, analog is a lot messier than digital, digital is 1’s and 0’s and is very easily quantifiable and shareable and you don’t, it doesn’t get loss as you make copies of CDs, mp3’s where as you make copies of the tapes and they start to sound like they are hissing. Right, so like I think like augmented reality is pulling in a little bit of that digital world into our augmented beings or lives or experiences. And yeah Kinect is nice; of course you could say that is as well. I’ve always thought a little more as a visual thing, but yeah, no I mean I think interacting, different ways of interacting to the systems are very digital. Like, why do we use these keys to interact with the world? That makes no sense; it’s just an artifact of the way the technology is built. So lot of opportunity around that.
There’s another startup that you guys have probably heard about. I forgot the name of the company, its a little Kinect like device works, it’s….
PARTICIPANT: [Could not understand] motion.
DANIEL: Yeah, leap, is that what you say? Right?
DANIEL: Yeah leap, so it supposed to be pretty amazing. I don’t know, I mean other thoughts, questions, unless you guys want to talk about… yeah.
PARTICIPANT: Could you talk a little bit about socialize and… [Could not understand]
DANIEL: Sure. If we have to, let me just do a really quick, I’m not going to go into a lot of details. I will do a little, I really want to mention about what we are up to. So, you know, we made apps for large brands and we made AppMaker like I said and we made like 1% of all the apps through AppMaker. So we really done a lot in apps and what we realized were that there is this engagement crush coming.
What I mean when I say that is, I am assuming most of you have a smartphone. Actually raise your hands if you don’t have a smartphone, anyone do not? Don’t be shy, nothing wrong with it. If you don’t have a smartphone, it’s okay. Everyone does, that’s amazing by the way.
This is the first time I’ve ever asked a question and no one said no, so that’s awesome. So, you know, how many apps do you have, we’re just talking about socialize. Yeah, there is this disk…
ISAAC: Found it.
DANIEL: Yeah, this is how I paid for college, that’s cool. So, you know, how many apps do you have on your phones, everyone in this room has a smartphone, it’s not even 1 person who doesn’t, I think that’s great.
DANIEL: its good fours. So how many apps you have on your phone that you never open? Right, like there is this engagement problem. So, right now the industry is so mature that everyone’s talking about downloads, like as a publisher of an app how can I make you to download the app? But really that’s just the last problem. Because once you download it, you have to actually use it and really that’s where the real problems come in.
And so like for example, you know, going from 2 billion to 98 billion downloads in the span of 7 years, that’s almost 50 fold increase, this problem is going to get much worse. And so what we did is we thought, well and we saw this early by the way. We are making these apps, you know, last time first in 2009. So we thought how can we solve this problem? And one thing that we realized was that using an app today is a very lonely experience. If I think of any app that you installed on your phone, besides Facebook, the sites are meant to be social or a normal like D, you know who the other people are that downloaded those same app?
It’s like everyone is there in the room where the lights are off. Right, so what we realized was if we could make the app more social, then we can get them to engage with the app more often. Because there’s a million people that downloaded the same app. They will never be friends, they are strangers. But they share one common interest which is the content of the app. And we though what if we could produce what instagram did. Are you guy’s familiar with Instagram as well? Where they made photos social and that’s what drove a lot of their growth. What if we could reproduce what Instagram did but with apps as a platform that any app developer just drop into the app.
So we sell to app developers. We don’t sell to end users, we sell to appdevs. What we do is we have this social infrastructure as a platform. We can wrap social actions around any type of content. So users can comment, like and share a photo, or a video or an article. And that social actions starts inside the app and they post them into Facebook, populates out to Twitter by the way. So then there’s also like a dashboard with a publisher, you can learn more about what’s happening. That’s just to give you a few quick examples of… then I will stop doing this. And then really what we are going to talk about like NCAA, here is the content, right? It’s what is called entity in our system; it’s an article about Oklahoma and here’s socialize making it social.
Right, so socialize has made that article social, but it doesn’t just have to be an article. And it doesn’t have to be this box. Like CNN money because CNN money get with a number of icons, instead of a bar. So, socialize is very flexible, right as a developer you can make it however you want.
And then one final example, here’s a bunch like this is an app where each photo is an entity, so we are making the photo social just like Instagram did, or in this app your entity is a joke. So, we are making the joke social, this one joke has 40 comments, it’s socialize it’s powered by. So this developer just defined entities as jokes. Or in these 5 guys app, every menu item is an entity, you can like the burger, right? Does that make sense what we’re doing we are building a social layer into mobile, when we started with apps [Could not understand] Yeah.
PARTICIPANT: [Could not understand] plus each customer you work with.
DANIEL: Well, the interesting thing is, so we start it as a consulting company doing custom jobs, building entire app but since been we’ve created products. The reason we’ve created a product is that output is not depended on input. Right, so like we can, we are 6 people now, we are a small startup, but 6 people, but we’ve got 67 million devices or phones that are using apps that run socialize, who must have 1000 apps and on coming to socialize, it’s because we don’t do the implementation, we just made the product, and then developer can build this into his app. So that’s the beauty of becoming a product company.
You can scale very efficiently, in fact as opposed to the consulting business. Having said that we. Warner Brothers had an app which implemented socialize. We put 20 hours into that to make sure that they would go live with the version that had sociale.because it may take forever. We redid the implementation making sure that got the process aligned, now they are responsible for it moving forward and stuff like that.
So we’ll do a [Could not understand], yeah.
PARTICIPANT: So can you, if you click socialize when you are there in your app, because you actually like have when someone downloaded just automatically, like a push notification or automatically pings to the Facebook information on the phone. So like that would be kind of an interesting way to create like a bio, oh hey this person just downloaded the Facebook app with the same logo of the image of the app.
DANIEL: So, I mean, so like the answer is yes you could. Yes absolutely you could, and stuff like that is what we’re doing to like increase engagement in the app. Similar example is when you’re using socialize you take a social action and you make a comment, you can subscribe to the thread. So here I’m making a comment and I’m subscribing to the discussion so that if you make a comment later on that same article, I’ll get a push notification that’ll bring you back into the app. Right, we’re doing everything we can to increase engagement, get people to open those apps back up, because that’s the goal we targeted. Yeah.
PARTICIPANT: iOS already have like, I don’t know something like share this on Facebook or Twitter or anything, you can see like, I don’t know it kind of like seeing like if your re using of your stuff because I was offered some of capabilities
DANIEL: Possibly, but think about it this way. If a million people downloaded the app, those are all strangers like I said, that forum was called as interest graph. Right, it’s not a social graph, it’s an interest graph, and they all share an interest. If I decided to share a piece of content on an app on Facebook, let’s say that I’ve got a 1000 friends, right it goes out to my 1000 friends. But there’s nothing for these million people that have already downloaded the app. They are not going to be my friends on Facebook. So it’s a different type of social. What we’re talking about is more like Amazon comments, like I don’t know who you are but if you make a comment about this keyboard and I want to buy this keyboard, you are going to influence my buying behavior even though I’m not your friend.
Or if you say that this hotel has these bedbugs on [Could not understand], I’m not going to stay there even though I don’t know who you are, but we both care about the hotel, we both care about the keyboard. That’s an interest graph, very different from the social graph. So we’re saying is, the content inside the app is still everything whoever downloaded the app cares about, and we’re allowing it to socialize around that content in the app regardless of status, and they can be copied up to Facebook or copied it out to Twitter. Now, we think that publisher is just using Facebook it’s like IBM giving up OS to Microsoft and to Bill Gates, that’s a mistake. So in the app, the users of the app around the apps content and the Facebook and Twitter should be a layer on top of that.
PARTICIPANT: Got it.
DANIEL: Okay, other questions. We don’t have to keep talking about socialize, I have been talking about this all day, I’m having not to talk about this for a while. I know you guys are smart but if you want me to talk about it though.
Also one of the things I want to talk about is fundraising. Like you guys know about angel list? Probably I imagine. So like one thing that I’ll share with you guys is I’ve written a lot about angel list. We’ve raised about 2 million bucks, and 54% of it came from angel lists. So I’ll show you guy’s couple of things about that. One thing is I had this thing called the venture pax bible, it’s pretty awesome. If you just do a search on my blog for the words angel list, like I’m going to do right now without a space.
PARTICIPANT: What’s the website for your blog?
DANIEL: just my name, Danieodio.com.
DANIEL: There’s a lot in here about fundraising, about specially raising. Which is what you guys will likely do to start, right? You want to be funded from someone who believes in you, who knows the vision is. This is a really great blog because VenTrax is the group that really created the angel list. And they are going to charge $47 per list, and let me give away for free. So it’s a thousand page, they call it as venture axe bible, which is just a lot of really great information about fundraising.
SO that’s what you can grab it from here. There’s an Oxford student that did this deconstructing angel list case study on us raising our 1st million dollars, called Anatomy of a seed with a lot of great info. Here As we talk about how to create an angellist page so that it’s good and valuable and you can get interest from angels. So, that’s other interesting stuff.
Anyway there is just lot of stuff about angel list. While if you are serious about becoming an entrepreneur and you have an idea, and you want to get some funding for it then the first thing that I would recommend you to learn to code, and [Could not understand]. That’s the first thing to do like lot of times I think people think I just don’t know how to raise money for this. It is a lot easier to raise money if you have some good ideas, you know, like what have you built, how far you’ve gotten in front of the…
Once you have a prototype, you’ll probably are going to get angel money. So then you can use things like angel list, and then once you have a little bit more traction then you’ll be able to go and do more fundraising. That’s really the pattern, yeah. I have already answered your question, and then we are going to talk later, but you have some more questions we can talk about later. That’s the socialist attitude to get, not the most aggressive question, ask, and hold on one second, yeah.
PARTICIPANT: So, with like I got a crowd funding like this. How [Could not understand] in terms of are they moving along [Could not understand]. I’m curious how those guys [Could not understand]
DANIEL: So just get some vocab very carefully though. By angels it’s not crowd funding per day. It’s all accredited investors. So it’s not like my mom wants to invest $100 concept. There is however I’m sure you guys have probably heard about studying at school, it’s pretty awesome. There are initiatives underway to allow this kind of very, you know, micro-cap pool crowd funding to become a reality and my understanding is probably not much more than may be less than yours, my understanding is the SCC obviously comes out with rules for it, it hasn’t yet. So they’re [Could not understand] haven’t identified yet. So I think it’s kind of stuck at the SCC right now. I do believe that crowd funding is the awesome opportunity, because people are suckers…
ISAAC: That’s why they don’t want to do it.
DANIEL: Exactly. You can probably convince a 1000 people to give a $100 pretty easily, like very easy. Not to say you should do that if you don’t have a good idea, but you know what I mean.
ISAAC: That being said, you know, you also have to understand before you go get funding for yourself into, for instance the… I think at the end of the day like just speaking your financial outcome, if you have a good idea whether you get funding or not funding I think by March you probably get enough with the same funding which will outcome. But how do you end up with that financial outcome is in terrible via pool you take funding from? And how you take funding?
So, for instance if you are taking money from a capitalist, they are going to expect you to do a lot more risky thing than you will from like a round of friends and family or even angel for that matter, right? Because a venture capitalist’s mom only works, like Daniel is saying, is that there is 90 failures and 10% winners.
And so if you let’s say you take money from a venture capitalist and you have an idea that will make, I don’t know, 1 – 2 – 3 or 5 million dollars a year, that’s what makes me feel comfortable and good. That’s not okay for them like they’re trying to make a billion dollar business. So, you know, those options are thrown on the table for you, because when you take from these people those options go away.
You have to understand what you really want to do and how like your, it’s your own I guess what you are offering your own personal life style. Like how you are going to live day to day, right. You have to understand that when you take money from people, you know, you guys God forbid, this is never a phrase, it’s not like even give [Could not understand] away. It’s a lot more than that, decision making, you get the power to do, and sometimes you will be empowered to do whatever they won’t be comfortable.
So you are giving away a lot of power, of course you take in a lot of funding, right. You will be able to do a lot of other things. So if you are trying to reach for that billion dollar business, you know, it does come with its give and take, you know, but if you want to build an app for yourself, you don’t want anybody medaling in your business, you know there are other routes of funding. Even tech [Could not understand] sort of funding is a great model because they don’t take any equity; you have no say in business. And all you are taking in is just cash, right. Actually that’s not the best way to use.
Actually the best way really is not take any funding at all. Are you guy’s familiar with 37 signals? The company 37 signals. So they created a product called business camp, right. They are wildly popular and make, you know, I don’t know how much in revenue, but a lot to say, that would be hundreds of millions of dollars.
Yeah, less than 100 people. They never take funding and they have a couple of books, one is called rework and one’s called remove. But anyway they teach you about, their whole mantra is about not taking any money from anybody so you are already profitable from day 1 and then you can still reach those financial outcomes, like they’re still making 100 million, 200 million dollars and they’re each taking out a lot of profit. But they never at one point they take money from a venture capitalist.
And they actually look down upon. So you really have to understand, but don’t just ever take just money because you think you need money. Understand why you are taking that money and figure out what you want you and your company to do at the end of the day. As you are giving a lot away when people are like that. I mean…
Thanks to Nola, Denise, Allison & Zach for the great thank-you card and UVa branded coasters! Now I just need to get a drink to set on them...
This was a great way to end our trip! Thanks for having us!
Do you think entrepreneur mentality is born, a combination of nature/nurture? There are all kinds of opportunities out there but to see connections and timeliness among them takes some kind of special gift and a combination of different kinds of intelligence. Amazing to me.
As part of my efforts to foster entrepreneurism in the Metro DC area, I've gotten involved with a stellar organization called NFTE (the Network For for Teaching Entrepreneurship), which focuses on encouraging young people to be entrepreneurs (mostly high schoolers, I believe).
I recently visited Ms. Gloria Taylor's class at Eastern High School in Washington, DC (located in NorthEast DC) to talk to her students about what being an entrepreneur is all about.
NFTE has a textbook that teachers can follow and a course curriculum that spans the school year where the students create a business plan and compete in a competition. The winners then advance to regional and national levels.
I recently started seeing the images above from CFNC.org (College Foundation of North Carolina) on billboards in North Carolina. "College works" is the slogan across all of the billboards. It seems the discussion about college is changing.
In the past most of CFNC's adds have focus on letting students know that college is more accessible than they think. They have always advertised the importance of college as well, but I think these billboards point at a subtle but important shift. The discussion around college seems to be changing and apparently CFNC's ad department agrees.
The question these billboards are trying to address is does college work? If I want a good job do I need to go to college? Will going to college help me earn more money? Will going to college make my life better?