How it is to be the sole founder and, you know, what challenges have you faced?
Rick: Sure, so although I’m the sole founder I do consider four of us to be members of the founding team.
Matthew: I see.
Rick: So my prior company Tickle.com which you had mentioned, Tickle was the largest personality testing site, we had about 200 million registered users. It became a big site, about 80 employees. And most of our staff here at BranchOut actually came from Tickle. So people that I knew for a decade in some cases, people that I trusted, that I wanted to start a company with, so the original founding team the four of us are all former Tickle employees in different disciplines. So me as a CEO on the business side, we’ve got our head engineer, our head designer/product, and our head front end engineer. So we needed the four disciplines in order to really build a site and I think it’s important when you look for founding team members to make sure that you have complementary, not overlapping, expertise.
A lot of people want to start a company with their best friend because they were both investment bankers or both you know in the same capacity in a prior life, prior job. What you want to do is look for people that have a complimentary skill set that you don’t have. As another example James Currier and I were the two founders of Tickle and we started Tickle back in 1999 and James and I, although we were both Harvard Business School students together, we had different expertise and James and I I think were a great match that way in that we were both good at what we did and in trusting each other to do that without stepping on each other’s toes. And when you can find people like that, high integrity, entrepreneurial with a different expertise, that’s when things can really come together.
Matthew: And so what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since launching BranchOut?
Rick: The most important lesson I think applies not only to BranchOut but to any entrepreneurial venture is the right people. So getting the right people involved early on, that sets the right culture for the company, you know a good engineer is probably worth five mediocre engineers. So you want to to the extent possible bring on rock stars, bring on people who can really have an impact because even with a small team, less than 10 folks or 15, 20 folks, you can get a lot done if you have the right people in place. And the people that we look for, I looked for people with a couple different characteristics, people who were highly intelligent, people who have integrity, people who are fun and people who are entrepreneurial, they roll up the sleeves, they’re proactive and they really want to change the world, right, people like that.
People who think different, and those are the people that we want to attract here and when you build that kind of an organization you can do great things. People who believe they can change the world are usually the people who actually do it, and that’s what we’re trying to do here, change the world in a positive way and that BranchOut, we believe can do that especially around the job market. The unemployment rate is nine or ten percent, we believe that BranchOut as a company is applicable to any company, any country around the world and that we can help solve a major problem.
Matthew: And we know that lots of people like you, lots of founders, you know, they didn’t just wake up one day and become a successful entrepreneur, they had mentors, they had individuals who inspired and coached and helped them. What individual has mentored you along you know your career development and is there an individual or individuals who’ve helped you know mentor you with BranchOut?
Rick: So I would say early in my career, first company I worked for was called Fisher Scientific before I went to business school, and my boss there was a mentor. He was a really bright guy, high integrity, and really pushed me to realize that if I worked harder than anyone around me, if I had a good attitude, that I was going to be able to move up quickly. And he fulfilled all that. You know I did my part, he did his, and that was a great relationship and one that I’ve tried to replicate as I become a mentor to people.
My second venture, Tickle, I would say my business partner James Currier actually was not only my partner but in a lot of ways a mentor, someone that I trusted, someone that you know Jim being a couple years older than me had some more experience, and someone that I think I learned a lot from. Again James and I had different expertise and James was and still is a real visionary truly smart guy, has a vision for the Internet, and that helped me develop beyond being the cofounder, CFO, chief strategist, that helped me become more of a visionary and more of a product person that I am today here at BranchOut.
And then here at BranchOut you know I learn from the people around me every day. I’ve also been fortunate to align myself with some great advisors, great investors, and we’ve got investors like Kevin Efrusy from Excel, Tim Chang from Norwest, Mike Maples from Floodgate, guys that I have an incredible amount of respect for, people that I feel I’m fortunate to have involved in the company. And I continue to learn from them as well.
Matthew: Excellent. And so you know what kind of you know as a domain expert, what kind of trends are you seeing in your space? With utilities and social networking?
Rick: Yeah, so in our space specific to utilities I feel like the last three years on the Facebook platform have been dominated by social gaming companies (unintelligible – 0:05:57.5) in particular and they’ve had an incredible run creating billions of dollars of market value in a relatively short period, about three years. And I think that they’ll continue to have success. But I think that the next three years we’ll start to see the emergence of utilities on Facebook. Companies that have social baked in on day one and not every industry is applicable to this but industries like recruiting where again you’re going to use your support network to be able to get a job or a sales lead or to be able to recruit.
Dating is a great one with Badoo and Zoosk really taking off where you trust your friends to set you up on dates. I think travel will be another big one on Facebook where that’s something very social, you travel with people that are in your friend network. And I think there’s going to be a lot of others; there needs to be a Yelp on Facebook and again a Travelocity or an Expedia on Facebook.
So I think that we’re going to start to see a lot of utilities on Facebook. There’s over 600 million active users on Facebook every month and utilities that can bake in social on day one, that have true value along the network effect of having more people involved in utility, creating better value, bigger value for you, especially when you leverage your friend network, I think that’s where the next three years especially on Facebook are going to go.
Matthew: Excellent. And so before we close I’d like to have you give our audience you know the vision of BranchOut and how you hope it will change the world.
Rick: Sure. So we touched on it already a bit but we really have a mission here to be able to change the world in helping people find those inside connections for great opportunities. And we believe we can do that in a positive way whether it’s connecting someone who’s out of work with the right job. Again, we have three million jobs on the site, we want to get people around the world back to work, right. We just went through a tough recession and there are a lot of people that want to get back to work and if we can help facilitate that I would be very happy if we can do that.
On a more granular level, getting recruiters the ability to identify great candidates, whether you’re a hiring manager and you’re trying to move your company forward or you make your living as a recruiter. We want to be able to help you do that. If you’re a sales professional and you’re looking to get that big deal, and we can be the facilitator of that warm introduction and that changes your life because there’s a sales commission or there’s a great partnership to be had. We want to do all those things.
And what we’re trying to do is use gamification in order to help grow our user base. And that’s a fun thing that our users can do which helps us build the database and give opportunities for getting recruiters and sales people and career networkers. So we feel that if we can bring all that together we can change the world in a positive way and that’s exciting to us.
Matthew: Excellent. Well Rick, we really appreciate you being a guest on our show. We hope you’ll come back. We’re rooting for your success at BranchOut and for those in our audience who’d like to learn more about BranchOut and use it on Facebook, you can visit www.branchout.com. Thank you very much for being with us Rick.
Rick: Thank you.
How it is to be the sole founder and, you know, what challenges have you faced?