Hey Wired Fans…
Below is the full text transcript of my popular interview with entrepreneur Daniel Odio… nearly 10,000 words of tips and tricks for startups.
Daniel Odio is co-founder and COO of PointAbout.com, but beyond that, he’s an entrepreneur and gadget geek with more gear in his social media travel bag than Carrot Top. Daniel sat down for an interview on The Hopkinson Report podcast.
Jim Hopkinson: So, let’s get to it. First and foremost, you are an entrepreneur. You live it. You breathe it, with all the gadgets you’ve got. So, what’s it like being an entrepreneur?
Daniel Odio: Being an entrepreneur is a really specialized thing. I think it’s often romanticized as being, “Wow, you’re an entrepreneur,” but the reality is… it’s a sacrifice. I’m still engaged after three years with a very understanding fiancÃ©e because we don’t want to put the money towards the wedding. We want to keep reinvesting the money in our businesses. I don’t think people realize how big a sacrifice it is, but it’s also very rewarding. Paul Graham, who is kind of like a hero of mine, says, “Being an entrepreneur is like being punched in the face everyday, but working at a company is like being waterboarded everyday.”
JH: So do you think that anyone can be an entrepreneur?
DO: I do think that anybody can be an entrepreneur, but there’s a big ‘but’. And the ‘but’ is that they have to get over their fears. And I think those fears are what keep most people from being able to take the leap.
Fear is a really funny thing. I think a lot of us don’t recognize that we are having those fears but when you have a mortgage, or you have kids, or you just have responsibilities, it’s hard to find those around you that will be understanding enough of your crazy sacrifices.
I’d liken it a jigsaw puzzle with a thousand pieces, and you have no idea what the picture looks like, and you’re trying to create something from nothing, and it’s a very scary thing. I don’t think it’s a genetic thing, it’s just looking at the world a little differently. It’s having a little bit of a different spin on what you see, and then not being fearful of trying to implement it.
JH: So let’s start at the beginning. You’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, right?
DO: Yes, since I was a kid. My father emigrated from Costa Rica. I think a lot of the cultural, you know–my dad grew up in a house with a dirt floor kind-of-stuff, –really helped me get my entrepreneurial bearings early.
For example, he would say, “Hey, don’t you think those construction workers are thirsty?” and I’d say, “Yeah, Dad, I bet they are thirsty,” and so I would go to Price Club and I’d put a cooler in a wheelbarrow and I bought sodas for 25 cents and I sold them for 50 cents.
But I think the crux of what my dad helped me do at a young age is seeing opportunity where others don’t, that’s the really the big lesson there.
It’s just asking yourself, “What is it that upsets me about my daily life?”Â “Where do I see opportunity with a twist?”
The two most important rules for an entrepreneur, are:
1)Â Â Â Â Always listen to the customer.
2)Â Â Â Â You are not the customer.
JH: Alright, so a lot of people who read WIRED Magazine, that listen to The Hopkinson Report podcast are entrepreneurs. They have their own business. They’ve got these ideas. What are some tips for people that are just starting out?
DO: So if you’re not an entrepreneur, and you want to become an entrepreneur, there are a couple main themes that I’d say to keep in mind.
The first thing is–the baker should not be running the bakery; and what I mean by that is people think, “Oh, I love to do X, and X might be baking.”
But running a bakery is a completely different skill set than baking, and people forget that. They think if I start a bakery, I’m going to be able to do what I love. And that’s not true. Yes, maybe you’ll be able to do it some of the time, but guess what? You have to be sweeping the floors and doing the accounting and finding the customers and doing the marketing and firing people, and it’s just so much more than what you love. So I think, don’t romanticize being an entrepreneur.
As a first step, decide–am I willing to make some really huge, huge, huge sacrifices in my life? It’s like birthing a child. I don’t have a child because I’m an entrepreneur and my business is my child. The parallels: I don’t get enough sleep; it always has to be looked after.
So I think that’s the first thing is don’t romanticize. Make sure that you want to be an entrepreneur, that you’re ready to be an entrepreneur. But if you are, it’s a matter of jumping in and testing markets. And that’s this process that I was talking about. That’s one of the first big things is to not think, “Oh my gosh. It’s got to be perfect.”
I always say, “Perfectionists are very imperfect with their time.”
And that’s true. A perfectionist will never get something out the door; and as an entrepreneur, you don’t have time to be a perfectionist. Time is your biggest enemy. You’ve got nobody working for you. You’re doing it all yourself. If you run out of time, you’re going to fail.
So, you have to start putting out prototypes. You have to start iterating early and testing. Put out something that doesn’t work and let your friends or any early customers give feedback. Tell them… “Just try this. Help guide me.”
Make something that people want. Let them guide you. Let your customers guide you. So I say make the food before you build the restaurant. Don’t put all this time and money and resources into building this fabulous restaurant to only find out that nobody wants to eat the food.
JH: So you think you should start small with a close group of friends, because what you don’t want to happen is, you put something out there to the world right away, and the people get it, and their first impression is, “Aw, this isn’t all that good. It’s not quite done.” And you never get a second chance. How do you get around that?
DO: So again, this comes back to fear, right? Because really, what you just asked me is–what if people burst my bubble and bruise my ego because they say that I don’t like it? But I would actually say, “That’s the most powerful response you can get,Â what’s wrong with it?”
So yes, absolutely, starting with friends is easy; but part of being an entrepreneur is doing what’s not easy. You have to go figure out who the customer is. Your friends probably aren’t the customer for what you’re doing. You have to go find real people, and you offer them a service for free. Or you offer them a prototype for free, and you say, “Use this. Does it make your life better? If it doesn’t, I need to hear about it. Don’t tell me the good stuff. That’s fine. But, really tell me the bad stuff. Tell me why it could be better.” That’s the fear; that’s the hard part is going past that group of friends and really talking to the customers.
JH: And as you’re doing all these in your testing, you’re capturing all this content, getting this continuous loop. And you’ve got some unique ways like continually capturing this content.
DO: So capturing content is like this little vendetta of mine because I truly believe that 20 years from now, people are going to find it very strange that for the first x thousand years of human civilization, content wasn’t captured. The technology is there now, just like we’re doing this podcast. This wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago. We would have had to be a huge recording studio.
So now it’s possible for an individual to be capturing content, but it’s still not culturally accepted. So when I have a seminar or when I’m on a panel or when I’m in front of potential customers, I will bring this bag that I have here. I call it my social media hardware bag. And it’s a bag of stuff that I have, and I can talk about some of the things are, but it allows me to capture the content wherever I am.
Things like video taping the event, audio recording the event, so that I can then extend that value from that one event to a worldwide perpetual type of feedback, promoting whatever I’m doing, people being able to see what I’m up to.
When you capture content, you get this really valuable resource. And as an entrepreneur, you don’t have many resources. You don’t have very much money. You don’t have very much time, so why not capture what you’re doing so that you can put it on a blog, or you can put it on a video podcast or an audio podcast so that more people can give you feedback. More people can tell you if you’re going in the right direction or not. And maybe even get some customers out of it.
JH: Because the extra time and resources is basically nothing, right? You bought that little camera and a little tripod, and now to post it, it’s nothing. It doesn’t take a lot of time.
DO: Yeah, that’s the beauty of the age that we’re living in is that it is all free or almost free. I calculated the cost of my social media hardware bag. It’s like $200 bucks. That’s a very achievable dollar value for most people; and yeah, you’re already at the event. You’re already spending your very precious time listening or speaking on the panel. Why not capture that content, so you can get 20x the return on that hour that you spent at that event?
JH: So what do you got in the bag? It’s not a flip camera, but a Kodak model?
DO: On DanielOdio.com I captured the content of what was in my bag and uploaded it to Vimeo. I use a Flip-style camera. I don’t use the Flip camera specifically. I like what’s called the Kodak Zi6. It’s $100.00 from Amazon refurbished, or you can buy it new for $150. The thing that I like about is–it’s HD, so great video-quality; but importantly, two things:
A)Â Â Â It has batteries you can take out; and when you’re capturing content, you don’t have time to plug it back in to recharge it. The Flip camera has to be recharged, so that’s bad about the Flip.
B)Â Â Â More importantly, it has a removable SD card, whereas the Flip camera’s memory is static. With the Kodak, you can expand the memory, I have a 16 gig card that lets me capture, like 8 hours of content or something like that, more than I’ll ever need.
JH: Got it. And then you put that on top. You got an expandable tripod?
DO: I do. I have what’s called a QuikPod. By the way–none of these people paid me– it’s just what I like. The QuikPod’s great because it fits in my bag. It’s kind of like an extendable monopod; but then, it has a little tripod piece on the bottom. And it’s just tall enough, I think it’s something like 18 inches or 20 inches, but it’s just tall enough that I can put it on a table and put the camera on top and it can see above people’s heads, which is really what I’m really trying to achieve.
JH: And then if you’re going to be far away, you’ve got a separate digital recorder.
DO: That’s exactly right. Two things about being far away–the first is when I’m capturing all this content; I’m trying to never have to edit it. And the reason is that as an entrepreneur, you just never have time for everything that has to be done, so why waste time editing? So I try to get the camera as close to the speaker as possible.
The problem is that it’s not a wide enough angle, so there’s a way to put an ultra wide angle lens on this camera. And on my blog, I show how to do it. It cost $30, so that you can get the camera closer because the angle’s wider so it can capture everything closer. That way you can just use the audio of the camera and just upload it to a site like the Vimeo or YouTube.
However, sometimes that’s not possible, so I have a separate $50 Olympus digital audio recorder. It’s USB. It just plugs right into my Mac. That way I can capture an audio track with that digital recorder. I capture the video track with the Kodak camera. And then I can use something like iMovie to combine the two, and I get excellent audio, excellent video. It honestly looks like it was a professional production, but it was like, $200 in total cost. It’s just amazing.
JH: Hmmmm….you just got a MacBook Pro, and then a special carrying case for that. What else is in the bag of tricks? You’ve got a bunch of cables in there.
DO: Yes, a bunch of cables, RGB to iPhone. I’m an iPhone user. I’ve got USB speakers because the MacBook Pro Speakers aren’t super loud. I’ve got the dumbest $1 Walmart purchase that will save your life. How many times have you been in the airport and you need to plug in, but there’s no free plug because everyone’s using a plug. So instead of being the villain, you become the hero because I’ve a got a little expander plug where you plug into one, but it turns out to three plugs and that lets you free up two plugs instead of using one. It costs a $1 at Walmart or Target.
Also very importantly, I have the Verizon Broadband Mobile card. And that lets me work from anywhere. Again, time is your biggest enemy as an entrepreneur, so you need to be productive wherever you are. I can be on the bus or on the train or waiting for a client in my car. And I pop in my laptop with my Verizon card, and I can be very productive. It’s actually really fast. It peaks, at like 9 megabytes a second, the other day. I couldn’t believe that. It averages maybe 500 k.
JH: And then the coolest thing is a do-it-yourself thing that you actually now sell on your Website. What do you call it?
DO: It’s called a phone2projector.
JH: It’s amazing. It’s this crazy metal contraption that will let you hook up any digital camera to an iPhone to view apps. So if you have an iPhone app, and want to display it, he walked in here, within 5 minutes, he was showing it on my big screen TV.
DO: Yeah, it’s great. It’s really cool. So this really gets into the crux of being an entrepreneur, right? Being an entrepreneur means, as Paul Graham says as ‘being relentlessly resourceful.’ And you have to learn to be relentlessly resourceful so, the problem that we had with this company that I co-founded, called PointAbout was we make all these great iPhone apps, but we have to show them to people. And it’s hard to be in a conference room with 20 people and be, like holding up your phone, “if you could see this” kind-of-thing. So yeah, we made the phone2projector. You could check it out at phone2projector.com, and it’s this contraption that lets you just hook a camera up. It takes a picture of the phone, and then you can display it on a big screen or projector. And it’s great.
JH: Amazing. I’ll have a video of that on TheHopkinsonReport.com. You can check it out. So, it’s kind of like, you’re the guy, when you’re the entrepreneur. So it’s forced multiplication. You can’t always hire tons of people, so you have to do more things yourself.
DO: Yeah, it’s like you’re a jack-of-all trades and master-of-none, which is unfortunate. My fiancÃ©e, I always joke, she’s like–if you could do one thing well, you’d probably be more successful because you would just do that one thing, and you’d be really good at it. As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to do everything a little bit.
And I think that’s also comes back to fear, well, I don’t like numbers. I don’t like accounting. Or I don’t like marketing. I don’t like talking in front of groups. It’s like, hey, you gotta suck it up. It’s either it’s important to you or it’s not; and if it’s not important enough, you’re not going to be successful, so you have to be a little bit skilled at everything as an entrepreneur until you can hire people in to fill up some of those roles.
JH: So along those lines, you deal with a lot of people, a lot of trips and contacts. Take me through quickly. It may be a little difficult through your audio, but on your contact management system.
DO: So as an entrepreneur, you are really trying to just get in front of anybody you can because any contact could be that one that makes the difference between success and failure. And so it’s really important to try to not lose that energy that you’ve put into meeting people.
The way that I keep people in touch with what I’m up to is when I meet somebody, and I get their card or I get their email, I use a program called, ‘Highrise’ from 37signals. It costs $49 a month. I think there’s even cheaper plans out there.
Highrise has a system that allows me, so that when I email anybody or anybody emails me, automatically that person gets put into Highrise. So anybody I communicate with automatically gets dumped into Highrise, and then I can sort through them. I do this once a week. And I can decide, ‘OK that guy Jim that I met, how often do I want to be in touch with him?’ And I can tag that contact with, let’s say, a monthly newsletter tag. And then I can, from Highrise, export everybody who’s a monthly newsletter tag to a program like Constant Contact, or I use MailChimp.com, which I think is great, and I can send a blast out, up to like 2,000 people for PointAbout.
These are just people that I’ve been talking to. We’ve got 2,000 people every month that we send an update to about things we’re up to. We just won a Webby, or we just did an app for Burger King or all this other stuff, and it’s great. People, every time I send it out, I get at least a half dozen people that say, “you know I’ve been meaning to talk to you, we have a need for an iPhone or an Android app or whatever.”
JH: So then you have, you showed me an example of myself, you had the email thread in front of you of what we talked about via email. You had my email address, and then you had a bookmark set up to search for my Twitter account?
DO: Yeah, exactly. So this gets into the social media aspect, everybody is trying to figure social media out, but what I like to say about social media is–social media is a tool, just like the telephone is a tool. I think people lose sight of that. Like I use a telephone to call somebody and communicate with them. And social media is no different. It’s just a method of transportation of information.
So once the information is being transported, it’s the content that’s in your head. It’s the expertise that’s in your head. Social media is a way for you to say, “Hey, I know how to be an entrepreneur. I’m going to do the Vimeo post, the video about being an entrepreneur. I’m going to put it on my blog so that a 1,000 or 10,000 people have access to that content that was inside my head. Or I’m going to tweet about something that I just learned so that everybody who’s following me, 5,000 people can learn about it.
Social media is just a way to get the content that’s in your head out to the people who need to know about it when they’re making a decision. That’s all it is. And so, I use social media, specifically Twitter, through Highrise. Like Jim, I found your Twitter ID and Highrise lets me plug it into Jim’s contact in Highrise; and that way, when I’m about to call the person, I just pull them up on Highrise, and I can see what they’re tweeting about. And when I call them, I can have something to talk to them about that’s obviously important to them because they were tweeting about it. That’s a cool little use of Twitter in social media.
JH: Do people ever think that’s a little too much if you were like, “Hey I saw you went and saw Mitch Joel speak last night.” And I say, how did you know that?
DO: Well first of all, I think being an entrepreneur, you have to do things that other people don’t. And so; if I were to say that, A: it would be really weird and intriguing that I knew that, so right there, it’s a lot better than being hung up on, right? So right there, even if it’s weird, it’s like at least you’re having a conversation with the person.
But it’s also about discretion. It’s also about figuring out how to relate that. Like for example, I’ve got this blog about getting good press. So everyone’s always trying to get press. Here’s how I get really great press. You have to relate it to what’s important to the reporter because reporters are human beings, too. And this is the same thing that we’re talking about now.
When I want to have a reporter write about something, and I’ve gotten into the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, like all these newspapers, and this is how I’ve done it. I will find reporters that are already writing about whatever it is that I’m doing, the same industry, the same general trends. I will find a specific article that a reporter wrote about, and I’ll send the reporter, it’s very important how you construct this email.
It’s like, Jim, space, re: you’re article on X, Y, Z plus thoughts.
So that’s the subject line. Very important because you’re using the person’s name, so they know that you have some level of personalization instead of some mass email. Re: makes people feel like you’re already involved in a conversation with them about it, so they’re more like, it’s an open email. This is all things to get them to open the email, right. So Jim, re: your article on gadgets + thoughts; and then also very importantly, in the actual email, I read the article. And I say, “Hey, I have this thought about your article. It was great. It was terrible. I agree. I just read whatever.” And then I say, “And I want to let you know about what we’re up to. We’re up to this cool thing. And this is what’s it’s all about.” And so that way, the reporter feels like, you know more about me than the average person who’s calling me, but you know what? You care, it’s relevant to me. I want to know about what you think I want to know.
JH: It’s brilliant. It’s hitting on so many levels. Like you said, it’s personalized. It brings them in; and of course, they’re going to be like, “Oh, what did they say?” What are their thoughts: did he like it or did he not like it?
DO: Exactly, exactly.
JH: And when you’re doing… say, a podcast every week, I come up with a new idea, and like starting from scratch. So you can latch onto another topic you’ve already done, then you’ve kind of already invested enough effort in this that if there’s a similar article, it probably makes their job easier.
DO: And that’s exactly the thing. A reporter’s not going to want to write about the same thing twice, but since they write about that industry or those trends, they’re going to want to know what don’t I know about this industry.
Like this guy is telling me something. I should know this. This is what I write about; and so, what typically happens is they’ll work it into a future article or they’ll do an article just on that or whatever it might be. It works exceedingly well.
I think it also happens to be the most honest way to get press. It’s like the reporter should know about you. They should want to write about you because you’re choosing the right reporter, and you’re caring enough about what they’re doing to make sure that it’s relevant so you don’t waste their time.
Jim Hopkinson: Alright, so that gets you into getting some press, getting to reporters, what about getting into businesses?
Daniel Odio: Right, so as an entrepreneur, you are always trying to talk to people that don’t have time to talk to you. That’s just like, when you’re creating something from nothing, people only know nothing. And so, why should I talk to you? You don’t work for a big established company. What value could you possibly have to add? So you need to play sales person and marketer and both of those in one; and so the best way to do that, there’s a great book called, ‘Selling to Vito: The Very Important Top Officer.’ It’s on Amazon. I highly recommend it for anybody who’s an entrepreneur. It’s probably the best sales book that I’ve found.
But what this author says is you always want to start at the top because if you start at the bottom, it’s going to be a lot harder to get through the secretary and then the intern to finally get to a decision-maker. If you start at the top, and you can convince that CEO you have something of value, that CEO will send an email to the right person, and that person’s gonna respond because when the CEO emails you, you jump. Right? So, I always try to start at the top, and the way that I do that, you have to know how to reach any CEO.
So here’s how I do it. This is one of my biggest tricks. First of all, there’s a great tool called Jigsaw. Jigsaw.com. And I’m a user of Jigsaw. It’s $30.00 a month, and it’s kind of like a big business card repository. The idea behind Jigsaw, again no personal interest in them–I just think they’re great, was you go to a conference. You have 50 business cards, and they go into a drawer. They’re just wasted. Well, Jigsaw thought why not let people upload those and create this big database where people can share contacts, and it’s worked really, really well. You don’t even need to upload cards anymore. You can just pay a monthly fee. So with Jigsaw, that lets you figure out who the person is. It lets you get to the right person at any company. You can find out who that CEO is.
So a couple of little tricks then, about reaching them. The first thing is it can be hard to get through the voicemail tree, and the secretary and all the gatekeepers. And so again, finding out what that CEO, what’s important to them and finding an angle, very similar to the reporter’s piece, is a huge piece of this. Making sure that you’ve researched the company enough so that when you talk to that person, you’re educated. You’re not saying, “Hey, would you like to buy X, Y, Z? And they’re like, we already have X, Y, Z. Like, that’s death. So you have to do your research.
But another piece of this that’s huge is, like technically, finding out how to email the CEO. I’ve found that email, it’s very short emails, I never write long emails. This is huge, actually. It’s really important to write a 1- to 3-sentence email when you’re trying to contact people that you don’t know because if it’s long, they’ll just say, “You know what, I’m just going to read this later” or just delete it. It kind of goes to the bottom of the inbox, and it gets lost down there. When you write a 1- or 3-sentence email, it’s short enough that they can take action on it. And you have to catch their interest. And remember, you’re job isn’t to sell them in that first email. Your job is to get to a phone call or to get to a meeting. That’s all you’re trying to do. So don’t try to put everything in this email. It’s like they don’t need to know your whole life history in an email. Just 1- or 2-sentences: I like what you’re doing with X, Y, Z. We’re doing something cool with A, B, C. I’d love to show it to you or whatever it might be.
So how do I find this CEO’s email address? Well, it might be in Jigsaw. But if it’s not, here’s the trick. Here’s the killer trick–most companies have a press department, right? And the press person always gives out their email address because that’s their job. So what you do is go to Google. And you type, for example, let’s say I was going to try to figure out who the CEO of IBM is and what his or her email address is. So I would go to Google, and I would type, site:IBM.com press
What I’m doing is I’m looking for the keyword, ‘press’ on the website: IBM.com. That tells me where their press release section is. Then I go to a press release, and I find out it’s Jane Doe is the media relations person. And it’s [email protected] or whatever it is. So, it’s usually the same thing for the CEO. So you just do first name _ last name @ the company name.com. That’s a great way to find.
I have gotten in touch, for example, Dell is a great story. Back when I was using a PC, I was using a Dell, and it broke. And it was under warranty, so I called the 800 number, and I got transferred to India. And the call got disconnected as I was being transferred to India. That happened three times. And I got really upset because, as an entrepreneur, you have no time. It takes a lot of time to do that. So I looked up the name of the like VP of Client Service for Dell. And I found, I actually found his home phone number because I knew that Dell was in Round Rock, Texas or wherever they are. And so I just looked at that last name on the WhitePages directory, and I found it. And I called his house at like, 9 pm. And his wife answered the phone. “Look, I’m really sorry to bother you, but I’ve tried using Dell’s system three times and gotten disconnected, and I need to get a new computer,” and so she was upset, understandably. But the next day, his assistant sent me a brand new Dell laptop. So again, it’s being relentlessly resourceful. It’s not accepting no for an answer. When someone says, “no.” My response is, “OK, that won’t work for me. How can we work this out, instead of just saying OK the answer is no.”
JH: So what are some of the other social media tools that you use to get the word out?
DO: So I’ll give you two main ones–one, just very briefly, is Vimeo or YouTube. Putting videos up is an excellent, excellent way to communicate your message to thousands of people again, being a force multiplier. I also transcribe those videos into text, so that Google will be able to capture them for SEO-Search Engine Optimization. So Google, to my knowledge, does not yet have the ability to reach into a video to figure out what all the keywords are, but when you transcribe it into text, I’ve got somebody who does that for $.15 cents a minute of audio. That allows me to put the video and then right below it, a transcription of the video, and that gives me a lot of Google juice, as I like to call it. So that’s one thing is anything you’re doing in capturing content.
I actually have in my car a suction cup on the windshield where I can put my camcorder, my Kodak camera, and I can actually do a video podcast while I’m driving. I mean we’re talking about maximizing your time here right, because you have to do 20 jobs here at once. So that’s what I definitely recommend that. And by the way, don’t be afraid of looking amateurish or of messing up. I personally believe that it’s fine to look amateurish. People expect it, especially on YouTube, and it actually makes it look more real. Like a professionally produced slick video has its place, but it’s OK for you to be like the person who’s an amateur. It’s totally OK, so don’t let that fear, and again–it comes to fear–don’t let that fear keep you from doing it.
The second thing is blogging. I am a big believer in blogging, and for a couple of different reasons. The first thing I’ll say about blogging is, ‘I had this saying that Henry Ford would love blogs.’ The reason I say that is because blogs are like an assembly line. So, I’ll tell you why. Let’s say that you get emailed the same question over and over again. Like in my past life, I was a real estate broker, so I get, you know, what’s a HUD 1 or how do I buy a house or how do I sell house or what offer should I make? Anytime you’re in a job where you’re writing the same answer over and over again by email. Stop. Instead, create a blog; and instead of spending 5- or 15-minutes writing that email, spend three hours to compose a really great answer, like more detail than you would ever go into via email. Put a really great answer on the blog, you have to write it once, you spent three hours doing it; but then every time you get that question, you just send a link to the blog.
JH:That’s actually how I started out doing my, I call the “Hoppy How-To Guides.” My friend, Ed, wrote me, ‘Hey Jim, I’m thinking about buying a mountain bike.’ I’m an expert. So I hit reply, and I start typing, ‘Well, you should consider this.’ And the next thing you know I had typed for like, two hours. And I look up and I’m like, am I an idiot? I could have called him on the phone. So I send it to him, and he’s like, ‘Wow! look at all this information–what kind of gloves should you get, what kind of helmet? What kind of pedals and the differences?’ And so for awhile, I couldn’t believe I did that. And two weeks later, another friend wrote to me, he’s like, ‘Hey, I was thinking about getting a mountain bike.’ Hold on! And I dug it out, and I saved it out; and then, literally, another three weeks later, a different person asked me, so I had that. So now every time, someone says what digital camera should I buy or should I do a PC versus Mac or what’s the best restaurants in New York City? I’ve got this spreadsheet or this notepad that I can just update it and send it and done.
DO: So this is a perfect case study exactly the stuff you’re saying is exactly why. It’s an assembly line, right? You are writing that blog once, and using it a thousand times, and that’s, again, force multiplication. It’s like, there might be 10 commandments to being an entrepreneur, right? Force multiplication is one of them and using your time wisely is another one. There are also sites out there–like posterous.com is one of them. Very cool, Y Combinator-funded company. It allows you to actually write a blog by sending an email to a specific email address, so you can send it as an email. It will get posted as a blog. Try to get in the habit of doing that. Stop emailing and start blogging and utilizing that. So, that’s the first benefit you get for blogging is this–force multiplication.
But there are other benefits. Another huge one is that you will become, in the eyes of Google, a subject matter expert on the topic. And that’s super important because Google is very, very thirsty for original content. It has to be original content. You can’t copy and paste content from another site onto yours. It has to be original; and when you’re blogging, you’re doing a lot of original content. When you’re doing these videos and transcribing, that’s also original content. If you can become a subject matter expert of whatever you’re trying to do, then when people type in keywords like,Â ‘iPhone application’, you know, PointAbout comes up at the top because we’re doing all this subject matter expert type of stuff. And so, by blogging, you get that value. Again, force multiplication–you’re getting a lot more for your time.
JH: I heard a stat yesterday, that 20% of every search on Google every day is new. It has never been done before. So at the end of every day, 20%–so that shows to just keep doing new content. So if you’re starting a new company, someone’s going to be searching something that is your company that has just a bit of a twist on it.
DO: I totally agree. I would even go so far as to say–as a realtor, I would actually wear a lapel microphone, and my audio Olympus audio recorder, I would plug the microphone into it, and I would say to clients, “Do you mind if I capture this content while I’m going around and showing you houses?” And if they didn’t mind, and some clients I wouldn’t even ask because I know they’d say no, but other clients–they think it’s great. And I say there are so many people out there that want to buy a house, but they don’t know what the experience is like and they’re scared of it. And by being able to listen to you going through it, they’re gonna to be more comfortable going through it. And they’re going to know they can trust us as a real estate company. And that, it’s a pretty example. You’re capturing the content. You’re getting value out of it. You’re becoming a subject matter expert. I put that up on our blog as an audio file and transcribe it, so Google then sees when someone types in ‘buying a house’ that you’re a subject matter expert. So there’s a lot of benefits that comes with capturing content. Maybe that’s another one of those commandments of being an entrepreneur. You have to capture your content.
JH:Wow, that’s a great way to get news about your company that you’re starting. So how old is PointAbout? Tell us about your company.
DO: Alright. So this is, PointAbout is a little less than a year old. We are four co-founders. We are having a blast. We’re basically trying to change the way that applications exist and how people interact with applications and allowing people to mobilize their content. So let me tell you what I mean. If I’m a brand–like Kraft for example, or if I’m a blogger, maybe I’m a popular blogger–being able to show up on a mobile device becomes very powerful because when people are using their phone, it’s a different use case. It’s like, I am in New York, and I want to learn about New York-I want content about New York. Or I’m going to a meeting-I want content about that meeting. So being able to get that content on the phone becomes a very powerful thing.
Now you could get it on a Web page on the phone. But when you are actually creating an application, you’re reaching down into the depths of the phone, and you’re extracting things like the GPS of the phone or the camera with the accelerometer or the address book; and so, PointAbout… what we’re trying to do is meld those worlds so that a blogger is able to make his own iPhone application that will allow anybody to download an app where they can find information about his blog. But also, they could maybe take a picture or a video of their own content and upload it back to the blog so that everybody can see it. So, applications are really a special thing, and Apple is the one that broke this industry open. And the problem is it’s really expensive to make an application. It’s like $20-, $50-, $100,000. We’re trying to democratize that so PointAbout has a Website called AppMakr.com, it’s Web 2.0 spelling, so there’s no e. Â AppMakr.com allows anybody to go to the site, enter a URL. We convert that into not only an iPhone application, but also an Android application; and then we can build it in under a minute. So if you’re a blogger, or you’re a band, or you’re a comedian, or you’re a soccer team, or you’re just a guy who likes mountain biking, you can take content that’s already been published by RSS, for example, or Web, and you can create your own iPhone and Android application.
JH: And it’s the real deal. I did it. I took my feed from the hopkinsonreport.com. Plugged it in there and bang–I’ve got an iPhone application, if I want.
DO: 27 seconds is how long it takes us to build the app. And what we’re working to do is to make it work across more phones (so the Palm Pre or Blackberry or Windows Mobile 7) because there’s a lot of fragmentation. Right now, the iPhone’s the main game in town, but Android’s a rising star. Verizon’s going to be carrying Android at the end of the year. Android’s on multiple handsets and multiple price points. At PointAbout, we personally feel that Android is going to outsell iPhone over time. It’s gonna be like PC versus Mac. The experience might be cooler on the Mac, but there’s more PCs in the world. So when that happens (and when Palm Pre and Microsoft’s new phone, whatever that ends up being) you know, there’s going to be a lot of fragmentation ’cause everyone’s on their own operating system; so if you wanted to make an application, you’d have to have spent $50,000 for the iPhone, $50,000 for Android, $50,000 for Palm Pre ’cause they’re all different operating systems. With PointAbout and AppMakr, you can just take RSS and you publish them any way or HTML content and you can have an application that works on all the phones in 27 seconds. So that’s what we’re trying to do.
JH: And you don’t even need to have users re-download the app, right? You don’t have to republish an app because the content is coming in fresh, right?
DO: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So that’s the beauty of using something like an RSS feeder HTML is you, as the publisher of that application, have complete control over the content. And so you can do things like changing it on the fly, and it changes it for all the users, for example.
JH: And I really like the pricing model that you have. So I can go in; and in 27 seconds, demo it for free.
DO: Yes, exactly.
JH: Now, if I wanted to keep that application for the Hopkinson Report iPhone app and have it on just my iPhone, how much is that?
DO: Right. So, we don’t specialize in you creating the app just for yourself because the idea is that you want to publish it to the world. So for $500 a month (not so much an individual, but like an advertising agency that does a lot of demos) is able to get a license to AppMakr where they can log in and just make unlimited demos. So that’s really the answer to the question that you’re asking, but that’s not so much for the individual as it is for an ad agency or a brand that wants to do just a lot of apps as demos. But for a $2,000 one-time fee, a blogger or a band or anybody can make an app that is published to iTunes or to Android Marketplace or whatever it is. For $2,000, instead of spending $20,000 or $40,000 on just one platform, so we’re really…
JH: and it’s in the iTunes store, an official app?
DO: It’s an official app. It’s a real app. So we’re democratizing the cost and the difficulty of making apps so that the demand can rise. We’re hoping. We’re planning. We’re trying to make it so the demand just rises expedentually.
JH: Is there a custom-level above that?
DO: Yeah, absolutely. So we can customize apps on a consulting basis. So if you want more than just the standard app, if you’re like, well, I really want to be able to share my content with people’s address books, right? That’s not built into AppMakr right now. Sure, absolutely. We can quote out what it would cost to do that, and we do that all day long.
JH: So, you could think of a company, like I know Burger King is one that you worked with where if they’re major company, and they’re like, should we do an app? It’s going to cost us $50,000, and there’s all these things that they could do, they’re like, “Hey, for $2,000, that’s a drop in the bucket for us something like that.”
DO: And that gets back to–I guess this entrepreneur’s commandments. Maybe that’s the third commandment, which is you want to be testing. Test. Make the food before you build the restaurant. This allows Burger King to test the waters and see–will this work? We’re also working with large media companies that say, well, I had this really expensive $100,000 iPhone app, but why don’t I instead make the Michael Jackson app for $2,000, and it’s got photos of Michael Jackson. And you can find people near you that are, like, mourning Michael Jackson’s death. And you know, they can upload content and share their stories. So it’s this idea, instead of making this one really heavy expensive difficult, time-consuming app, they can make the app for March Madness. Or they can make an app for Michael Jackson. It’s like, disposable or light-weight applications, very low cost. Ability to test the waters, try it out, test, iterate, repeat. How about that as being commandment number four? Test. Iterate. Repeat.
JH: So what’s the future trend in mobile? Everyone wants to know, what’s the next big thing? Obviously your company is trying to capture that on kind of the iPhone application side, but what are some bigger trends that you’re seeing?
DO: So there’s a couple specifically with mobile. One thing is the Web started being more local, and it went more global. That was really a big deal of the Web and the early 2000’s was–I am a store, and I have a storefront that can be accessed 24-hours a day by anybody in the world. And it’s coming back to local. Local is becoming much more important again, and mobile really facilitates that. So I’m in a certain geographic area, and I want information like, Yelp, for example. It’s a great example of that, where I don’t care about a restaurant in California, if I’m in Washington DC, I just want to know where I can go eat around the corner. And what did people think about the restaurants that are there and which ones should I go to? So, mobile really facilitates the hyper-local aspect of the Web.Â That’s one big trend that’s just getting started.
Another trend is that nobody really sees, yet, what is going to be possible with mobile. I mean we spend our day in this, our lives in this, so we’re thinking about this all day long. But for most people, it’s not obvious yet. But there was a slide in Apple’s March keynote about the OS 3.0 coming out. It was a very telling slide, and what it was…was a blood pressure monitor (you know that wraps around your arm to test blood pressure) but it was plugged into an iPhone. And so it’s this idea of analog devices being digitized.
So that blood pressure monitor that plugs into the iPhone is going to need an application on the iPhone that can read what the blood pressure monitor is saying; and then maybe send your blood pressure facts to your doctor or your insurance company or whatever it is. That’s another reason we’re doing AppMakr is we believe that large companies are going to want to be making applications for analog devices; and we think (this is just our guess), that Apple is trying to position the iPhone as a device that will digitize the analog world.
Another example is…Chrysler (before they started having financial trouble) was doing something called the Pea-Pod car or something like that…where it was a city car, electric car that went no more than 25 mph, but you had to put your iPhone into the car, like there was a dock in the dashboard. The car wouldn’t start without an iPhone. You use the iPhone to navigate and to tell you how fast you’re going. The iPhone was the brain of the car, so it was digitizing an analog device.
So we think that mobile is going to allow for analog devices to be digitized. We think AppMakr is the place to be for that because there needs to be apps created to do all of that. But another big piece of that is that the world’s infrastructure just isn’t quite ready for mobile. A lot of mobile right now is you hear in the press, all the time, it’s games or it’s entertainment apps. But, that’s like the internet was 10- or 15-years ago. I mean, it was not, mission-critical banking online stuff 15 years ago. It was…
JH: People were afraid to put their credit card online. It took years for people to get over that.
DO: Sure, absolutely. And so the same kind of thing is happening with mobile, where right now, it’s very kitschy stuff. But as the infrastructure improves, an example that I’ll give is for any of you that live in a city, there are now instead of parking meters, they’ve made those green pay-to-park devices where you can put in a credit card. It prints out a ticket. You put that on your dashboard, so instead of putting quarters into a meter, you’re actually paying to park. Well that green pay-to-park device could be networked. It’s not today. I don’t know of any city that has networked it; but if it was networked, then it would know out of the five parking spaces it’s responsible for, which ones are full and which ones are empty. And if it was networked, then you can use your phone to say, “where’s there an open parking space?” and give me a map so I can get to the open parking space. So things like that where the infrastructure still has to catch up to the promise of mobile; as that happens–we’re going to be using the phones. It’s going to be just an integral part of our lives where we’re really relying on…
JH: How much time would that save if people had to drive in… I’ve got to meet Jim in New York City, just plug it in, boop, it’s on your dashboard, Oh good, there’s a spot off 14th and 3rd.
DO: And it’s not that far away. I mean, we’re literally less than five years away. I mean, the leap. Let’s put it this way. The leap–to be able to leverage that device you always have with you 17 hours a day. And people, most people even sleep within arm’s reach of their phone. I know I do. The ability to, I mean, think of that phone as a gateway to the internet. It’s a gateway to all things digital. You live in an analog world as a human, but you’re carrying this device around with you that gives you access to the entire digital world. And those two things haven’t really been connected very well, yet, but it’s coming. It’s absolutely coming. It’s not that far away. The infrastructure just has to catch up to where mobile is right now. We just really believe in mobile. We really believe in the power of mobile. We think that it’s going to be a really, really, really huge deal.
JH: Well, it’s new companies and entrepreneurs that are pushing things in the digital world to the next step, gotta get us out of this recession. So this has been a fascinating talk. Good luck with AppMakr. I urge everyone out there, if you’ve got a blog (which everyone does), check out AppMakr.com. Again A-p-p-M-a-k-r.com … in 27 seconds?
DO: 27 seconds. There’s a button that says, ‘try it.’ A big fat button, just hit, ‘try it.’ Put your blog in, and we’ll take care of the rest.
JH: So if you’re small-time blogger, check that out. And if you’re a big business, and you want to, hey, maybe you’re a middle manager and everyone knows the iPhone’s this big thing; and your boss is, like, oh, we have to do this $50,000. And you know what? For a test, here’s an idea I have–for $2,000, a small portion of the budget, we can have an iPhone app, and advertisers go crazy for that.
DO: Yeah, test it. Iterate from there. We can customize it to do that big app, but don’t blow your whole budget on one idea. Try 10 ideas at first.
JH: And can we follow you on Twitter and what other things are?
DO: Yes, sure. I’m everywhere. DanielOdio.com, as I mentioned, is my personal Website, lots of entrepreneurial thoughts there. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or if you are an entrepreneur, I really welcome comments and a conversation. Please share your tips there. I’m on Twitter. Just Drodio. If you just google Drodio, which is D-r-o-d-i-o. That’s my initials. Some people call me Drodio, you’ll find Twitter.com/Drodio. I’m Drodio everywhere, so that’s easy.
JH: Thanks again for coming in.
DO: It was a real pleasure, and I hope this was helpful or useful. I hope we can continue the conversation online.
JH: This has been the Hopkinson Report podcast. I’d like to thank my special guest, Daniel Odio and remember you can find his company at PointAbout.com and check out other links to what he’s doing, including the video of his $200 social media hardware bag at the HopkinsonReport.com. Thanks for listening.
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