Michael Wolfe – ccLoop 2 of 2

“Entrepreneurship is less risky than NOT pursuing your passions.” Michael and ccLoop are making it easier for teams to collaborate via email.

Matthew: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since launching ccLoop?

Michael: It’s only been a few months, so I can’t, in terms of new lessons I haven’t seen in other companies. I would say maybe that sometimes it’s easy to overestimate something you think is a problem, that maybe doesn’t turn out to be a problem. The hypothesis around, is this a real problem. You always have to test that. Often the news is usually worse than better. Usually you find out that your friend had that problem, and maybe other people don’t.

This was actually a case where the problem was actually worse than I thought. It has actually been a challenge for the company, because you always want focus as a startup. You always want to be able to say that my perfect customer, these attributes, these demographics, this size company, this function, this role, this is a problem where everybody has the problem.

I almost can’t have a conversation where somebody doesn’t say, “Oh, yeah. That’s perfect for me. My company needs that,” or ‘I need that as an individual.” So, it’s a lesson that focus is always a challenge. And right now what we’re trying to do is take that feedback and say, where is the starting point?

It’s great to have a problem that the whole world has, but it can be a big challenge, because you can’t go after the whole world on day one. So, it’s yet another reminder that focus is always the right answer, and now we’re working to find that focus.

Matthew: Excellent. And so, what individuals have played an important part in your development as an entrepreneur, as a founder, in your life? And have there been any individuals or individual who has had a more significant impact in launching ccLoop?

Michael: My Dad, actually. I grew up in the Army. My Dad was an army officer–a lot of leadership positions going into a lot of different army posts, different commands, Pentagon. And I think the military, on the one hand it’s kind of a big company. It’s almost like GD times 10 in terms of the infrastructure, the bureaucracy.

I think folks who grew up in the military, people who have had leadership positions in the military, they both have that rigor around structure and discipline, and rules and regulations. But they also just have this kind of seat-of-your-pants, BS, no garbage. They have a very kind of matter-of-fact leadership style.

And they manage to blend those two things. Where I think in the corporate world sometimes folks are still more for the rules and regulations and forget kind of the on-the-ground stuff. Military guys never forget the on-the-ground, because that’s where all the action happens, because on the ground is life or death. So, I think that actually had a big influence growing up.

Growing up, seeing my Dad in action, and then in the military culture, I actually translates extremely well, even though I think most folks would probably wouldn’t tie a two-million person organization to the lessons applying to a six-person startup. But actually, I think they do.

Matthew: That’s fun. Thank you for sharing that. And so, do you have any advice that you’d like to share with our audience about launching a startup? What do you think are the key elements? And what are your insights on this?

Michael: It always comes down to people. And everybody says that, everybody knows that, but the gap between knowing that the people are the most important thing, and actually doing the things that you need to do, bringing in the best people, spending time with people, training, documentation, even as you most from company to company building that network and having a set of folks you want to work with again, that I feel like I always re-learn that lesson in different ways.

In this case we were able to go from a good idea to a fully-funded company with a great set of people working together day to day in about two months. I mean, I’m talking about from the day the idea happened to the day that we were up and going. And the reason we were able to do that is because a bunch of folks who just love startups and really want to get into something new, and loved the idea and just jumped in. And we could easily still be half way through building our team right now if we didn’t, you know; six months is not that long to build a team, if we didn’t kind of have that ground work.

So it’s just once again you are only as good as your people, and you can only move as fast as your people can move. And those investments just always work, and you just have to put time into recruiting, training, on boarding, building relationships, and also building that external network of advisors and partners to the company that you can go to for potential customers, feedback for investment. You almost can never do enough there. And you almost never are doing enough.

Matthew: Excellent. And so, before we close, I’m hoping that you will share a little bit about your vision for ccLoop and how you think it will change the world?

Michael: Two billion people have email right no; I think it’s two billion and counting. Over a trillion emails were sent last year, and at least every one of those two billion people I’ve met all have the same frustration around too much email, information overload, it’s unproductive. It’s a tool that was designed in the 1960s and 1970s to solve a problem, and people are still using it today to solve today’s problems. That’s a huge opportunity. It’s almost too big in terms of how do you tackle it.

I’m a big believer . . . I would rather take a problem that people have, the broad problem that people have, and a tool they know how to use and make that experience way better, and get some hopefully pretty big percentage of those two billion people to do things a little bit differently and a little bit better. And I think if you build on what people know how to do, but also give them some more power, especially for business applications, that works way better than telling them to stop doing what they’re doing and go do something else.

And if you look at this email problem that a lot of companies are tackling and a lot of people are talking about, you tend to have the live-with-it crowd. I call it the coping mechanisms, the in-box bankruptcy, the file and folders and the rules, the priority in-box, all these little gadgets and kind of gismos to help you manage that giant pile of stuff better.

Then you have a bunch of companies that are out there telling you–and Google Wave was actually one of the first ones to do it–throw away your email, because it’s broken, get out of email and just do our thing instead and move all your people and all your data and all your addresses–and it didn’t work that well for Google Wave. And I think most of those things don’t work very well. When you ask people to change behavior or learn a new tool, move their data, you don’t end up doing very well.

What we’re trying to do is solve a lot of communication and collaboration problems, especially ones that cut across teams, the ones where working with sets of people and trying to share information and follow information. We’re solving that problem, but doing it by building on people’s existing email client, email address, without asking them to download anything or change anything. And I think that’s an opportunity that could change the world, because the whole world is using email and the whole world is complaining about it.

Matthew: We really appreciate you being here. We hope you’ll come back as a guest on FounderLY. For those in our audience who would like to learn more about ccLoop and participate in the beta you can visit them at www.ccloop.com. Again, I’m here with Michael Wolfe. We are very stoked you’re here. We’re rooting for your success. Thank you.

Michael: Great; thank you.


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