What is the first thing you did to turn your current business from an idea into a reality?
I actually didn’t have the idea for Sled. My cofounder, Marc Guldimann, did. As an industry expert, he had the insight to see that advertising is increasingly becoming mobile — and yet the industry is desperately in need of a more effective way to advertise on mobile. As soon as I heard his pitch, I knew we would make a great team. His industry experience and business acumen perfectly complemented my technical skills.
What is the scariest part of being a young entrepreneur and how can others overcome this fear?
For me, the biggest challenge has been focus. No matter how good the business idea, there’s this human fear of, “What if this idea isn’t good enough?” It pushes us to try many things at once in hopes that one will succeed. This is the correct mentality to take when you’re hunting for ideas, but once you find an idea that starts getting traction, it’s important to shift your mindset from exploration to pursuit. I’ve found that the biggest thing that derails me from pursuit mode is looking at other people’s successes too much. It triggers that grass-is-always-greener part of your brain, and makes you forget about the successes you’re having on your current project.
Were you ever told not to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams? Who told you that, what did they say and why did you ignore them?
I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of friends and family in my entrepreneurial pursuits. That being said, there’s an inherent conflict of interest. Your friends and family want you to be happy, and being an entrepreneur…isn’t always happy. So the people supporting you also end up concerned that you’re pushing yourself too hard. But you as an entrepreneur have to balance that with your internal drive, the knowledge that you’re OK sacrificing some immediate happiness and pushing yourself harder, so that you can achieve something great.
What is the No. 1 thing you wish you’d known starting out and how did you learn it?
That you can’t do it alone. Coming from a technical background, classwork tended to be individual. Even group assignments provided that option. Especially in today’s formal learning environments, you can get away with flying solo for a very long time. But to build something larger than yourself, you need to be able to work with, trust, and earn the trust of other people. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a team willing to provide honest feedback, which has been key to improving my teamwork skills.
What do you recommend all new founders do for their business — or their personal lives — that will help them the most?
Turn off all but the most critical notifications on your phone. Because we carry our phones on us at all times, they hold the power to interrupt ANYTHING we’re doing, whether we’re in the zone, on an incredible productive streak, or walking through a park to burn off stress. The moment that notification triggers, our stress levels spike and we get distracted from whatever critical task we were working on. So be honest with yourself and limit interruptive notifications to only the most important apps.
How do you end each day and why?
I write down the three things I’m going to accomplish tomorrow. I don’t always get all of them done, but I’ve found that I start the day off much stronger if I wake up with a sense of what I need to accomplish. And once you start off productively, it’s much easier to keep that productive streak going throughout the day.
What is your best PR/marketing tip for business just starting up?
Do something unique, and then phrase it in a way that makes the target audience care. My startup, sledmobile.com, is a new way to advertise on mobile. For advertisers, we pitch ourselves as a way to buy on time instead of impressions, so that you only pay for what you want (audience attention). For consumers, we pitch it as a nicer advertising experience. For publishers, we’re a way to increase your mobile monetization. Find the pain point for your audience and focus on that.
What is your ultimate goal? What will you do if/when you get there?
The Internet is free because of advertising — yet we’re struggling to monetize the mobile web at the same time that the Internet is going mobile. My goal with Sled is to keep the mobile Internet free and accessible by solving the mobile advertising equation.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.