Jessica Alter | May 15th, 2013
David Murray and Brett Larkin are members of FounderDating. They met through FounderDating and have started their own company – GoalSponsors, a coaching and monetizing platform for non-medical health practitioners.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?
David: It was kind of a cultural norm at Google that you’d “graduate” from Google to go run your own, successful startup. And being a product manager on GMail I often felt autonomy and it starts to give you the confidence that you can do it on your own. Beyond that I also believe there are 3 facets to life 1) mood, 2) pleasure, 3) meaning in life. I felt like I had the first 2, but the meaning was lacking and entrepreneurship has been the way I’ve found meaning and purpose.
Brett: I was really interested in freedom and building something I truly care about.
WHY DID YOU APPLY TO FOUNDERDATING?
David: I originally heard about FounderDating from Josh Merrill (a friend and fellow entrepreneur) who heard about it from Manu Kumar (K9 Ventures). When I started I was doing everything by myself. And I quickly found that there are a lot of things stuff that a) I wasn’t good at and b) I didn’t enjoy doing. I not only wanted help with those things, but also I was lonely. I actually worked at an office and had other people around, but that’s not the same thing as working with people. But I didn’t have anyone to share successes with or support me in the struggle (more importantly). When things don’t go well, you have no one to console with. Sure, you can call a friend or a loved one or something, but it’s not the same – they don’t the struggle and they aren’t as attached to it.
Brett: One of my mentors and a repeat entrepreneur, Larry Braitman, recommended it to me. He knew it was essential to find the right cofounder. It completely changed things for me.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR “DATING” PROCESS.
David: At first I took it slow, but then I reached out to probably 15 people and met with about 5 for coffee just to start a conversation and see if there was even initial interest in even working together. I originally reached out to Brett because I saw on her FounderDating profile that she had a gaming background and was interested in wellness now. We started by skyping becuase we lived about 45 minutes apart.
Over time I realized that the small distance didn’t matter given that everything else – chemistry, complimentary skills, working styles – came together.
Brett: David emailed me over Christmas time and I got excited. We ended up skyping 2-3 days in a row. We then met up for 4-5 hrs and were just talking. Nothing got built right away. After that, we started to meet very regularly for 6-7 weeks.
He met my mentor and had to pass that “test.”
I was actually talking with someone else from FounderDating and we explored all working together. But David just didn’t gel with the third person. They had different motivations, styles, etc. That was actually helpful, because David’s reaction to the other person helped clarify for me what was important. What was important – stage of life, methodology, personality, division of labor. ThingsI knew but was trying to see past because I saw that he had certain skills. I wanted the shoe to fit but the skills were not enough and it ultimately would not have worked.
David I and worked together for 6 -8 weeks before we drew up official paperwork
TELL US ABOUT YOUR COMPANY
Brett: It’s been great working together because we were working on separate projects and after coming together we merged our projects conceptually but started building from scratch. There was definitely an evolution and learning.
GoalSponsors is a platform for health practitioners to privately coach and manage clients at scale. This includes lead gen, payments, scheduling and automation tools.
It’s a coaching and monetizing platform for non-medical health practitioners. Right now, it enables mental health professionals, personal trainers, nutritionists, dietitians and more, to privately coach and manage virtual clients across all their devices (phone calls, texts, email), instead of or in addition to in-person appointments.
SIGNS IT WORKING?
Brett: The key metric we track is revenue and we’ve had 64% average monthly revenue growth and we have 700 practitioners have signed up. It’s been awesome to see.
We raised a small angel round from Larry Braitman and a few others (on track to raise more) and we’re working out First Floor Labs.
WHAT’S YOUR HOPE FOR THE COMPANY?
Brett: All health practitioners will be using the platform and it will allow them to scale their business and have a global/virtual practice. These are people who have amazing knowledge and expertise but aren’t good at marketing themselves. We can help them with that.
David: We want to disrupt the appointment model and make it easy to be in touch and always on so more people can get help.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS REGARDING COFOUNDERS?
David: Open every door that is available to you. Apply to programs you think you’d never get into, make cold calls to people you think would never listen to you. Even the small percentage of things that pan out have accelerated our growth or spawned incredible introductions. Be honest about what you really need and want to be happy, even if it’s not what you think is popular. That is key in finding the right person to be your cofounder.
Brett: Get a cofounder and not just any cofounder, one who is right for you. The minute we found one another all these doors opened – not only did people want to fund us but accelerators were open to us. Of course there are obstacles, but it’s better to have one another. Beyond that, be authentic and be yourself. Don’t try to be something you’re not, your business is you and vice versa.
Hayden | January 11th, 2013
Robert Victor and Dan Oved are members of FounderDating based in New York City. They met through our website and have started their own company – Tapactive, helping people stay fit with private workout instructors.
What made you decide to be an entrepreneur?
Rob: When I was building mobile and emerging products for companies like Google and DoubleClick, I was moved by the devotion and tenacity demonstrated by the startup founders. They worked day and night, with limited resources, and yet were more innovative and faster than we were. I knew I had to be surrounded with people like that, with passion for work, creating something new and changing the world. After helping a few early stage companies through fundraising, pivots and acquisitions, it was time for me to make my own path. Now, I just had to find the right business at the right time, which is easier said than done.
Zipcar and Airbnb were making traditionally expensive services more accessible. Uber was revolutionizing service booking and dispatch. SoulCycle was making fitness instruction social and fun again. We saw an incredible opportunity to combine these trends, making high-quality fitness instruction like Personal Training, Yoga and Pilates, accessible to anyone, alone or with friends, in their home, office, local park, or building’s gym with the freedom to book through their mobile phones.
Dan: Until April of 2012, I led a team that developed technology platforms at Equinox Fitness. Technology helped Equinox transition from a high-quality, personal fitness company into a thriving lifestyle brand. And while I loved working at such a cool company, I wanted to build a new service using technology that helps people live a healthier lifestyle, without the constraints of legacy infrastructure. Then I went to Blueprint Health where I was a Floating Founder helping healthcare startups.
Now that I’m an entrepreneur, I love that there are no limits to the direction of technology that I create and products we launch. I’m involved in every part of our new business, not just technology, from picking a name to defining our social strategy.
Why did you apply to FounderDating?
Rob: Before Dan and I started Tapactive, I briefly tried creating a company on my own. After a few setbacks, I finally understood that many hands don’t just make light work, they increase your morale. That’s when my search for a cofounder began.
A great friend and trusted advisor, Frank Barbieri, introduced me to Jessica [Editor’s note: CEO of FounderDating]. I joined just in time for the first or second NYC new member welcome kickoff. Still, it wasn’t until several months later that I met Dan through the FD website.
Dan: I was looking for a business-minded cofounder when I saw a tweet from Andy Weissman about the upcoming FounderDating application deadline. The 50/50 split of tech and business founders and the vetting process attracted me; I applied immediately.
Tell us about your “dating” process.
Rob: A month after our first online message, we finally met. I immediately felt that Dan was the perfect co-founder for me and Tapactive. Before him, I met countless potential partners. None were as excited, knowledgeable or as dedicated about starting this business.
Through our dating process, I learned that a great match goes beyond talent and skillsets. Dan’s strengths and personality, perfectly balance my own. He focuses on research. I am more impulsive. Together, we’re an odd couple that makes well thought through decisions, quickly.
Dan: I was at Blueprint Health working with a few startups and learning a lot about what makes good founders and how to successfully launch a business. I had been fielding many competitive offers from early stage startups to more established ones but I knew deep down inside I wanted to start something on my own. I messaged Rob through FounderDating; his profile particularly stood out due to his engineering background and experience at Google.
I left our first meeting feeling incredibly charged up and excited about what was possible, but it was an extremely difficult choice between starting something from ground zero or joining something existing and established with more security. After consulting several “personal advisors”, including technology leaders who had been in a similar position, friends, and VCs, I realized this was the right time in my life to take this opportunity and Rob was the perfect match for me.
Rob’s experience working with companies of all different sizes, through various stages, selling, marketing and designing new products helped me feel comfortable with the risk of going it on my own. We’re more than just business partners now, we’ve become good friends.
Rob: Dan and I didn’t start slow, spend time brainstorming ideas or work on a sample project. Some recommend those types of exercises for learning about each other, but for us, there just was not time to spare. We saw an incredible opportunity to disrupt a fast growing, fragmented market and wanted to move quickly.
After meetings, discussions about the opportunity, and several dinners, I was ready to move forward. Dan spoke with friends and colleagues, asked me pointed questions about the business and came up with his own ideas that had never occurred to me. The process took about two months before he was comfortable moving forward.
Tell us about your company.
Rob: Tapactive offers private workout instructors for individuals and groups, anytime, anywhere.
You can schedule personal training, yoga, pilates, and other types of fitness instructors that come directly to your home, office, private gym or park. We make private instruction more accessible by providing the convenience and freedom of booking, payment and rating of each instructor through your mobile phone. We further improve the experience by allowing instructors can to add notes about each session and send you training reminders, helping you achieve your goals. Tapactive allows you to schedule one-on-one classes or make workout more fun and social by inviting your friends, family, clients — anyone — through our application. You can even spread the cost amongst the group, making private training more affordable. We’re making a service traditionally only available on a gym’s schedule more accessible, convenient, social and fun.
Do you have signs that it is working?
Rob: We’re in private beta but service businesses like ours are already proven to work. Everyday, people hire personal trainers, do yoga with their friends or join a cardio bootcamp with their spouse. We’re creating a more convenient way existing customers to access instructors and attracting a new, younger base looking to have fun workouts.
We’ve already seen overwhelming demand from friends and acquaintances. One innovative startup plans to offer weekly yoga classes for their clients at their office.
Dan: We have been reaching out to trainers and yoga instructors in our network who all love the technology we are building as it solves many problems for them. They are all eager to get on board.
What does the future look like?
Rob: Personal fitness is changing and we’re at the forefront of several exciting, new trends.
Workouts are becoming more social, spiritual and fun. Mobile applications are making fitness more effective and efficient. Devices like Nike’s Fuelband are helping track progress toward personal goals.
Tapactive brings people together, helping them have fun while sweating and getting fit. Eventually, our platform will tie into the latest devices, like Nike’s API, while still providing the motivation and expert guidance that only a great in-person instructor can provide. For now, we’re already moving forward by having instructors available on your schedule, anywhere.
What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs regarding cofounders?
Rob: Try to ignore people talking about how hard it is to have a startup, especially those doing it on other people’s dimes. Focus on the positives. You are your own boss, building your own product — what could be better? Go start something today – even a side-project with someone.
Dan and I think about the future, but mainly focus on each individual next step. To stay focused, we celebrate every milestone, no matter how small. So far, we have funded everything ourselves because we believe in our company and ourselves.
Now that we’re getting our first customers, sending out credits to our friends and family and starting to raise some outside funding from angels and venture funds, our philosophy is really paying off.
Dan: Be patient and wait for the right opportunity before picking a co-founder. Find someone who complements your skills, is willing to compromise, and who you can imagine being stuck in a room with for 60+ hours a week.
Tapactive is offering Founderdating readers a free $20 credit to keep your New Year’s Resolution to stay in shape. You can go to their website this week to register for your gift and you’ll be informed as soon as it can be redeemed. You can also tweet them – @tapactive. Alternatively, tweet Robert @robertjvictor and Dan @oveddan.
Hayden | December 13th, 2012
Brittany Haas and Adam Alter are cofounders of New York-based Happily Ever Borrowed. Happily Ever Borrowed is an online store that rents designer bridal accessories for weddings at fractions of the retail price, helping brides and guests find that perfect accessory without breaking the bank.
What made you decide to be an entrepreneur?
Brittany: I didn’t originally set out wanting to be an entrepreneur. I thought I just wanted to be with a luxury fashion brand doing something in business or design – that’s why I’ve been a Planner for Saks and Hermes. But I found myself bored in many of my jobs and grew out of them quickly. I had this idea for Happily Ever Borrowed after my three older sisters who were getting married and spent a ton on accessories they wore once. I started executing on it when I talked to people and they said it was a good idea. I was young and wanted to see what I could do. I didn’t anticipate becoming an entrepreneur, but it happened and I love it now.
Adam: To me, the word ‘entrepreneur’ is sort of on a pedestal and it is hard to see myself as that. I had been working for years in online acquisition and growth and just started seeing ways that I could do things better at work. Then it bleeds into your normal day to day – it’s about solving problems. I was at an agency and my clients were young people, small teams and very successful. When you see folks doing that, you think to yourself: “I would like to do that too.” From there, I knew I wanted to be involved in an early stage company and I interviewed at a few places but there just wasn’t anything that I was passionate about. I think a big part of that was because I was coming in after the founder level.
Why did you apply to FounderDating?
Brittany: I started the business July 2011 and was getting to the point where it was growing beyond me. I started looking at accelerators and the feedback I received was that I needed a technical cofounder. I originally started the business with a friend who ended up leaving, and I knew it would be difficult to find someone to click with on the same level. I decided to apply to FounderDating to surround myself with technical people and impressive people.
Describe how you met and your dating process.
Brittany: I remember going to the New Member Kickoff (how we welcome new members offline) and feeling very inspired by the people around me, knowing I was surrounded by very intelligent driven people. I was on my way out when Adam tapped me and said “Hey, I wanted to talk to you” and we exchanged information and ended up talking later on the FounderDating site.
Adam: Browsing the site and at the Kickoff I felt like I was the least qualified person in the network and several other people echoed that thought as well. They do an amazing job screening people and building community. The engineers I met are going to invent awesome technology. But just being in the room with those people at the kickoff was so key because you understand the playing field and it’s energizing. So I knew Brittany must have been impressive and it’s pretty great that she had this idea and just started building it. That was why I wanted to connect with her.
Brittany: I don’t remember who reached out first but one of us did and we had a coffee date. We started talking about where the company was and Adam jumped on and talked about ideas he had to bring Happily Ever Borrowed to the next level. We talked about what was missing and what needed to be done. Apart from just good ideas, we clicked really quickly and decided to keep the conversation going. We started meeting almost weekly to talk ideas, hash out the future and we realized this was going to be a fit. We made it official about 3 months after we met.
Adam: In order to support what she was doing and get a better understanding of the business, I went to a pitch competition that she was participating in and watched her from the audience. I thought she did a great job, and it was helpful to see her in a more formal setting talking to potential investors. It made me more comfortable knowing she could walk the walk as well.
Were there any challenges or hesitations in jumping on/bringing a cofounder on to a company that you were already building?
Adam: I was really happy to participate because I wasn’t as comfortable owning some of my own ideas and putting it out there. With Happily Ever Borrowed, the vision was spelled out and work already had been done. I was ready to plug in to a project then and there, and this was a project ready to go. It would have been a very different process if Brittany and I had to discuss ideas about what to work on – it would have been much more drawn out and difficult. Here was something that was ready to go that was a good fit for me and what I was looking for.
Brittany: That was actually my biggest fear – bringing someone in. This had been my baby for almost a year at that point. There’s usually general questions people bring up when we meet and these were things I had already thought about. What I liked about Adam is he brought ideas to the table that were things that I had not thought about before – I agreed with them, but I just didn’t know how to do them. People often try to bring their own ideas in and turn things into something different, but Adam and I agreed on the simplicity of the concept. I was very hesitant to bring someone on board but the moment it became official I was very comfortable with it. It wasn’t a quick thing at all – we definitely took time to finalize our partnership.
Tell me about Happily Ever Borrowed.
Brittany: Happily Ever Borrowed is the premiere luxury e-boutique that rents bridal accessories to brides for their wedding day. Anything, except the dress, the bride can rent from our e-commerce site. I started the business July 2011 and Adam joined the team about 6 months ago [June 2012].
Adam: Brittany has an amazing background in fashion and a vision for the product. She is the CEO and creates relationships with vendors and has the vision. My background is marketing and customer acquisition and my role is CMO. It is a 2-person team at this point and we bleed into each other’s stuff all the time. I was attracted to this project because I had met Brittany and she wasn’t poking around with a bunch of ideas. She had a lot of clarity in what she wanted to work on, and I saw how I could contribute effectively and add value to her business.
Brittany: We blend very well – I don’t have any official background in marketing by any means, but I have experience in the luxury fashion industry. It was great for us to come together because I handle operations and logistics, while Adam takes on marketing and customer acquisition. It’s a great relief to me because that is not my expertise!
Signs that it is working and plans for the future?
Adam: We haven’t done much in the way of typical online marketing but we already have a lot of customers.
Brittany: We did a hundred weddings last year with only word of mouth marketing, so it is a pretty good data point for seeing if the demand for the product is out there. We’re now in a better place to push forward with the marketing dollars that we have and push things to the next level.
Adam: We’ve been really successful in proving the concept and our customers love us.
What does the future look like?
Adam: What’s going to happen in the coming months is that we’re completely revamping the site with a focus on customer acquisition and obtaining customer data. The current site is built on Shopify which is an ecommerce platform but there are limitations. This upcoming redesign is one of the most important things we could do.
Brittany: We started finally getting some checks in which is really exciting. Investors coming on board is a huge step for us. We plan to hire a bigger team, someone more full time on the tech side and someone more focused on social media. We’re growing out of our space, so getting a bigger office is on the cards. We started in bridal because it makes sense, but customers have used us for bar mitzvahs, proms etc. and we’re willing to look into other special occasions and see where it can take us.
Adam: What gets me really excited about the business is that it is so clear that there are different areas we could tackle. That being said, bridal accessories are a $1.7 billion annual business. I like the simplicity and clarity of where we are, but I also like the potential for the future. The next 3 to 6 months are going to be very exciting with our new look, and being able to test our hypotheses about marketing and our customers.
What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs?
Brittany: Don’t try to do it alone. It is awful.
It is great to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and someone who is honest. Don’t rush into anything, but having a cofounder is crucial to having a business. I was only able to do so much by myself until I realized I needed a cofounder. Where we’re going is so huge and I wouldn’t be able to do that by myself.
Adam: It is important to know what you like and don’t like, what your strengths and weaknesses are. Joining FounderDating it has been really helpful in framing how to think about things and it has changed the way I look at any project – not just formally starting a business, but even a smaller project. People are rushing into starting things. Start small, test things and understand how people work before you move on to bigger things. Be really careful in the people that you partner with because that will have a huge impact on your final product.
If you would like to find out more about Happily Ever Borrowed, tweet them @happilyborrowed. You can also find Brittany on Twitter as @brittanyhass.
Hayden | November 21st, 2012
Sabrina Ricci and Richard Shank are FounderDating members who met online and decided to start Write or Read, an e-book analytics platform that is currently in alpha. Sabrina is based in the New York area, Richard is based in Portland. They are currently working on Write or Read part-time, with hopes that this will grow into a viable business.
Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?
Richard: My first “business” was when I was in the 2nd grade. I made nametags that went on the front of desks, and sold small ones for a nickel and large ones for a dime. It has always been a part of me, and I don’t think I woke up one day to say I wanted to start my own company.
Sabrina: I didn’t really think about it until when I went to grad school at NYU to do my Masters in Publishing. A group of us there decided to try our own e-book publishing company because a lot of things are changing in the publishing world. It didn’t end up working out, but it made me realize that it could be really great to experiment and try my own thing.
Why did you apply to FounderDating?
Richard: For me, it was peer pressure of sorts. When FounderDating launched for Portland, one of the people who supported it was Kris Wallsmith. He’s a great guy and we run in the same circles, so I ended up joining because of him.
Sabrina: Write or Read was actually my thesis project in grad school, and I had an opportunity in NYU to be part of an incubator for it. I knew I needed to find the right cofounder, especially a technical one so I spent a few months frantically contacting everyone I knew and looking in a bunch of places. I stumbled upon FounderDating through one of my searches and it sounded amazing so I applied.
You’re not in the same city, so why and how did you connect?
Richard: When I signed up, I went through and contacted a couple of people. No one necessarily struck me because I’ve been looking at publishing for a couple of years. I realized I had to find somebody who really understood publishing knows the industry and has the contacts and involvement in it. I filtered the list and when I read what Sabrina had written on her profile, I thought it would be a good fit and so I contacted and pitched her with what I could offer.
How is that relationship working and how do you stay in touch?
Sabrina: The relationship has just been virtual so far but working really well. We use Assembla, email, have the occasional Skype meeting so we’ve been pretty good about communicating, letting each other know what’s going on and what our expectations are.
On average, I’d say we message each other on Assembla about three times a week and have a video Skype chat once a month. The Skype sessions tend to occur when we have something specific we need to discuss, such as finalizing features, sharing relevant research that should be discussed, and in one case, having a meeting with a potential partner based in Brazil.
Are there challenges associated with having a virtual relationship?
Richard: Quite honestly, I haven’t really experienced any. A lot of it has to do with the trust I have in Sabrina being able to do her role. I don’t think twice about what she’s doing – I know she is, there is plenty of evidence that she is out there holding up her end of the bargain. It is very apparent to me that she knows what she is doing, so I don’t feel like we have the need to be in absolute constant contact or we need to sit down and see each other face-to-face.
Sabrina: The most important thing for me has been to be able to communicate and know expectations. I don’t worry about any of the technical side and I know it will get done.
How did you build trust between the two of you?
Sabrina: For me, trust comes from the ability to communicate. From the beginning, I wanted to make it clear that I’m flexible with my plans, as long as we keep each other informed about what’s going on. I think it also helped to talk to Richard via a video chat on Skype–the next best thing to meeting in person. We established a rapport and the fact that he offered to work with me for a few months and then either talk about a partnership or just leave me with the code made me think, ‘this guy is awesome.’
Since then we have communicated regularly, and I think over the past few months we’ve built a strong foundation. And like Richard said, when we have a misunderstanding, I believe we’ll be able to work through it.
Richard: Well, for me its a little bit of how I view people. I think people will do the right thing and I try to base my approach to people on this premise. I know it doesn’t always hold up, but its a good place to start. Sabrina was pretty open about what she wanted to do in her FD profile. I tend to trust people who are open more than I trust people who are closed and afraid of someone taking their idea and running of with it. Of course, I did a little research on her and found that she’s been pretty heavy into publishing which gave me confidence she was serious.
From there it was a matter of how we interacted and also just seeing what she is up to. She has other sites and blogs and I know what is going on with her professionally. I see she’s out there pushing forward great ideas about publishing and getting her name brand out.
When we have things that need to be done, she’s on it and handles it quickly and efficiently. Along the way, I look for any potential red flags, but I haven’t seen any. Until she gives me a reason not to trust her, I will continue to trust her. When the day comes we have a misunderstanding, we’ll work through it. Some of the more solid relationships I have grew through a misunderstanding.
Penn Jillette, when talking about his partnership with Teller, said that they have lasted this long because of a mutual respect for each other. Over time, they have become good friends, perhaps best friends in one sense of the word, but what they have is built on respect. So when they go through periods when they cannot really tolerate each other personally, which happens in every relationship, their respect holds strong through that. I respect Sabrina and I believe she respects me and I believe its a great foundation for trust.
Tell us more about Write or Read.
Sabrina: The idea is a place for self-published authors to get insights or metrics on their e-books, such as basic demographics on who’s reading, how long they are reading so that they can tweak their stories and make themselves better self-publishers. Readers can subscribe to the site and read e-books from us.
Richard: I’m handling the technology side and Sabrina handles the marketing and business side of things.
Is it working?
Sabrina: We have about 1400 people who have signed up to be notified when the beta rolls out. I used to have my own micro-publishing company, and I have a few authors we’re working with. For our alpha, one of our authors Preston Randall self-published a book and we’re going to use his book to test it.
What’s in Write or Read’s future?
Richard: We’re pushing our alpha out beginning of next month. From there, we’ll be bringing authors on and having a nice collection of books that people can read from. We’ll then see how it goes, make changes and have a beta release for the first quarter of next year.
Right now the e-publishing world is on fire, and everyone is trying to figure out what to do and where to go. Rather than focusing on where we should be in 6 to 12 months, we’re focused on the next 1-2 months and keeping the cycle short. A lot will come out of the alpha and beta and we will find out what people are really wanting from the perspectives of both people reading e-books and authors who are writing.
We’re running in a more agile way rather than predicting what is going to happen. Web technology is changing fast and while we know where we want to go, we want to see what happens and change with that.
What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs in finding a cofounder?
Sabrina: Communication and setting expectations is really important. It has been really great working with Richard because I know he’s working on his end and I can focus on mine. I’ve worked with other people in the past and we didn’t have good communication and it led to some issues.
Richard: The best advice I can give is to take it slow. I’ve jumped into situations before, where instead of “dating”, I jumped straight into getting “married” and three weeks later you’re “divorced”. To me I noticed that the relationships and businesses that have worked out for me are those that have taken time. If it works, you keep moving forward and if it doesn’t you just move on and go your separate ways.
Interested in learning more about Write or Read? Sign up to be notified about their beta launch. You can also find them on Twitter – Sabrina (@sabsky) and Richard (@iampersistent).
Hayden | October 25th, 2012
Jonathan Joseph and Istvan Jonyer are the cofounders of Fantasy Brain. Based in San Francisco, they met through FounderDating and now hope to change the world of fantasy sports.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?
JJ: I started my career in venture capital [at In-Q-Tel], which was like coaching the game, but not being able to play. Because of that, I’ve had the startup itch for quite a while.
Istvan: My dad was a professional athlete and started his own company when he retired. Companies were being started around me when I was a teenager and entrepreneurship was just in the air. I started a company myself right after high school, which didn’t work out, and after three years of that I decided to go to school. I came to the US, got a PhD in computer science and went down the corporate path for a while before finding my way to Silicon Valley and working at Google.
WHY DID YOU APPLY TO FOUNDERDATING?
Istvan: I was trying to pursue every avenue to network in the startup ecosystem. I went to Hackers and Founders, FounderDating and maybe a couple others.
JJ: Looking for cofounders is extremely difficult. Silicon Valley is one of the great networking scenes in the world, but there are still a lot of people out there who aren’t of the caliber to start a high growth company. It is very hard to find a concentrated group of well qualified people that you’re a potential fit for. FounderDating was extremely attractive as a vetted group of high quality potential cofounders.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR “DATING” PROCESS.
JJ: When you’re starting a company, it is very much like dating. You have to make sure you are right for each other personally and professionally. That includes complementary skillsets, personalities and perspectives.
We both knew we had the intent to go through the process and see if there was a fit. We got together a handful of times and spoke about common beliefs and goals. We quickly moved through the process of identifying that we were a good match.
Istvan: I also wanted to make sure the market and the opportunity was well vetted before we embarked on it. We worked together for almost 2 months, a non-trivial period, where we vetted the idea together and each other. It was JJ’s idea and he was more bought in and I had to be convinced.
JJ: The dating analogy works great. There was an initial period of courtship before we moved forward.
TELL US ABOUT FANTASY BRAIN.
JJ: Fantasy sports is the killer app in social gaming. It’s a $2B market and the growth rate is actually increasing. Even though it is the killer app in social gaming, there hasn’t been any innovation in the space. That’s because the game is not built on top of an existing social graph or platform. For example, when you sign up for Farmville, you can immediately play and interact with your friends who are already playing or invite friends who aren’t. Fantasy sports isn’t like that – you might play in a league with 10 people, but even though you might know you have friends playing, you can’t compete with them, you don’t know anything about their teams or their results.
Fantasy Brain brings social infrastructure and a social data set into the game. We track a user’s existing fantasy leagues and normalize all the data. We measure the efficiency of every move you make in the game based on the rules and scoring systems in that particular league. What that does is normalize the scoring systems and leagues across providers to create common metrics, creating the effect of a platform. This allows you to continue competing with your high school buddies in that league you’ve been playing in forever, but also your work buddies who might be playing in a different league with different scoring rules.
DO YOU HAVE SIGNS THAT IT IS WORKING?
JJ: We’ve been in public beta for six weeks now. So far, engagement numbers are great. We’re still trying to make sure we are ready to scale and are gathering user feedback. There are some great numbers for engagement – some of our numbers are off the charts.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR FANTASY BRAIN?
Istvan: There is two more months until the end of the football season. We are measuring and iterating at the moment. The next cycle will be to analyze the data and iterate on some of our features for the next season and choose the next sport we want to enter.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS REGARDING COFOUNDERS?
Istvan: It is really important to set expectations — figure out who is going to do what, the titles, equity split, etc. You have to get the basics out of the way. Set expectations right away and explicitly talk about how [you think] things are going to unfold.
JJ: Don’t underestimate how important the choice of a cofounder is. Ideas change, things change, and in general, even if they don’t, a startup is really really really hard. You have to be able to coexist AND be productive through tough times with somebody. Even with FounderDating helping the signal to noise ratio, it is still very hard to find the right person in a network of highly qualified candidates. The first and most important thing that can go wrong in a startup is not choosing the right cofounder.
Find out more about Fantasy Brain on their website or on Twitter. You can also reach out to JJ at @jonathanjoseph and Istvan at @istvanjonyer.