Sean Shadmand – Socialize 1 of 2

"Creating an entirely new product means giving users something they want, but don't realize." Socialize's API & SDK increases mobile app engagement, promotion, and discovery.

Matthew: This is Matthew Wise at FounderLY. We empower our listeners to have a voice and share their story with the world, enabling others to learn about building products and starting companies. It is with great pleasure that I’m here today with Sean Shadmand. Sean is the co-founder of Socialize. Socialize helps mobile developers increase distribution and engagement for the use of mobile indulgence. With that said, Sean, we’d love for you to give our audience a brief bio.

Sean: Okay, yeah. Like you said, I’m Sean. I’m from D.C. originally. I went to school in Reston, Virginia, Southlakes, went to George Mason University, did Computer Science and Philosophy. I paint, I play the guitar, I play the piano and drums. I’m really into the art side of things and the philosophical side of things, but I got a lot of interest later in high school and college in Computer Science. I studied Computer Science and Philosophy at George Mason, so I really got into the technical side of things and what was really nice about the merging of those two things, is you can have an idea, a philosophical quandary, and then actually apply it. Especially the time that I was in college, starting in 2000 and on, I actually had access to build things that otherwise, decades before, would have cost a lot of money so that juxtaposition between philosophy and technology is really great and I enjoyed it.

Matthew: What makes Socialize unique? Who’s it for and why are you so passionate about it?

Sean: Socialize is empowering developers to create a social engaging environment into their application in no time flat. You drop it in and immediately you get view features, counter features, shares, likes, commenting, all that kind of stuff pre-built in a mobile environment. We’ve been doing mobile since 2008, so we have a really good understanding of how the mobile interaction should work and what things work in order to get those qualities out of it, so we want the developers to leave all that to us, worry about their content, the way things look, the way their app, the things that their apps say, and we want to focus on that engagement principle, and we think that Socialize is a great way to do it.

Matthew: What are some of the technology and market trends that current exist and where do you see things developing in the future for your space?

Sean: Well, we’re likely to be in mobile because it is the space to be in. 2007, when Steve Jobs, rest in peace, came out with the iPhone, it really changed everything and it’s synonymous with the ’70′s, the ’80′s where Microsoft and the PC was invented. It’s the re-revolution of a space and Mary Meeker and all the big analysts know it. Google knows it. Everyone knows it so the future is bright for mobile. I think a lot of things that people haven’t figured out is, we almost know too much. We know so much about the web world, that we’re trying to just stuff things from the web into the mobile device and it keeps failing in a lot of ways when we do that. We have to re-invent a lot of things and re-examine the space. Some things are similar, but it’s the differences that make everything really difficult and having to re-invent is the thing that makes a lot of entrepreneurs and start-ups make mistakes, so finding the new paradigms out of the old paradigms is the big challenge, and taking advantage of this huge market that everyone knows about that’s coming like a monsoon is a big challenge.

Matthew: What inspired you to start Socialize? How did you come across the idea and discover the opportunity?

Sean: Well, we started AppMakr in 2010 and since then, it has grown to be the biggest do-it-yourself application publishing system on line. Over 10,000 apps have been created on it and the exposure to all those apps gave us insight onto drop off, what users really wanted, what developers really wanted, how those interactions worked and so on. A lot of statistics and data we were able to analyze and after seeing that drop off in apps across the board, not just AppMakr, figuring out ways to improve that experience in AppMakr led us to realize that if we can break out of the AppMakr module concept and into the SDK world, the platform world, we can take what we’ve learned and the tools that we know can make a difference, and push it into everyone’s app across the board, so that’s pretty much what manifested.

Matthew: Who are your co-founders, how did you meet, what qualities were you looking for, and how did you know they would be a good fit?

Sean: We didn’t go out looking. I’ve heard of some people having to go out and look for co-founders. I was lucky enough to go to college with my first co-founder, [Isaac Imoskara]. We went to college together and had a really good time, and we got along right from the start. I remember one night he got in the car with me and said, “hey man, I want to start a company and I’ve been hanging out with you and I think I want to the stuff with you,” so I was really humbled by that and he’s just been a really great technical smart guy and taught me a lot about Computer Science while I was studying Computer Science, and we mixed and matched and did a lot of stuff together.

He came out to California and did Future Publishing and when he was in San Francisco, I was in D.C. He was like, “man, you’ve got to come out here. This spot’s for you,” and I think a lot of people told me that, so I kind of left everything in D.C., come out here to startup with [inaudible 05:34] and then us together out here post-college was kind of like, “hey, why aren’t we doing something together,” so we did. We did Family Oven made that like a profitable company that let us kind of chill and not really have to focus on making money as opposed to just thinking of things, moved back to D.C. when Isaac got married and he knew a guy named Daniel Odeo [SP] and had a jam session with him to just have ideation sessions, and said, “hey, you should meet Sean,” and vice-versa, and sat down with Daniel.

We had billions of ideas and so it kind of just fell in our laps in a lot of ways and everyone got along instantly, so it wasn’t really that hard to find co-founders and we all have different qualities. Isaac’s really technical and has really a good eye for direction of things, and Daniel’s an amazing sales person and knows how to talk in front of cameras and get the word out and really promote, and I like ideas and creating companies and pushing ideas in certain directions, so the three of us compliment each other. I say kind of a lot, but they do compliment each other.

Matthew: From idea to product launch, how long did it take and when did you actually launch Socialize?

Sean: We had the idea in late 2010, when we were doing AppMakr. We had to break out of AppMakr, we had so much information and we can do so much more. There’s a point of inflection when you have a product that makes other products, is how much customization can you put into it. I think it’s a great product, it does a lot of great things, but when you want to go above and beyond into all new different worlds and ideas that you can’t even think of and get those going, you have to get outside of the template model, so we wanted to break out there early on and figure out ways to do that, it was late 2010.

When we actually implemented the first time was March of 2011 as a beta in AppMakr to see what would happen, and instantly we got more engagement. We started seeing 20 percent or more engagement across all the AppMakr apps we put in and said we really have something, and that’s when we started really working on the SDK, putting the money and the investment into that. We launched the SDK a couple of months ago in probably September, and we’re seeing some good uptake, greater uptake in that, than AppMakr’s. Every stage we do better than the last and it’s really encouraging. We have a really great team out here in San Francisco and the tool [printing out] is starting to look better and better, so I’m really excited about it.

Matthew: Are there any neat metrics or social proof about Socialize that you’d like to share with the audience?

Sean: Social proof, like I said, 20 percent engagement, scientifically proven, that’s awesome. We have over thousands of apps that are running Socialize now. We have may 3 million end users that are interfacing with the Socialize product. We have 12 million views that have gone through Socialize and almost a half million more comments, so we’re getting a lot of data being passed through us. We’re really pushing to make that bigger and bigger.

Matthew: We know founders face unique challenges when they decide to build a company. What was the hardest part about building Socialize and how did you overcome this obstacle?

Sean: Let’s see, the biggest hurdle in building Socialize. Well, I think it’s a constant hurdle, so I guess the biggest thing for us was the personnel side of things, like going from just getting an idea across, to selling and creating, which is something that we love, and having people and managing people in a way. I guess that’s a pretty big hurdle because unless you want to become an HR company, I don’t think people go into entrepreneurship to manage people. That’s not usually the goal, so having to balance your interests and your excitement for things with the practicality of running a business is pretty hard.

Really, focusing yourself on the small things, I think when you’re an entrepreneur and sometimes just anyone for that matter, when you have a goal, you shoot for the stars and you really focus on the things that, “Google did it,” and all that kind of stuff, and you forget about all the small steps that came before that moment. Overstepping and trying to shoot for that before you get your first few moves right, it’s pretty difficult. Things like trying to make a million dollars before you know you can make a single dollar, that’s something that comes up a lot.

I tell a lot of them, when I do entrepreneur lectures and stuff like that, I usually tell people a few rules of thumb that helped me get through some hurdles. One is not being able to make decisions really tough, so having rules and a mantra in place so that you can make decisions really quickly, is nice. One of this is, if two experts disagree, then just do whatever the hell you want.

Another rule of thumb is you can’t use the word “and” when you’re talking about things you’re developing. If you have an “and” and you’re focusing on one thing and another, you’ve inherently removed all the quality from the first and you’ve proven that the first thing doesn’t matter because you had to make a second thing, so that’s really a good tip to get over, us internally, just to get over problems, and if you take the advice from someone without knowing where you get the advice or where they get the advice, then you might as well work for them and not for yourself, so take advice with a grain of salt and apply it to your life as opposed to enforce it onto your life. Those types of things really help to get over hurdles in entrepreneurship, and also just do what you love, because if you don’t, it’s really shitty and hard.

 
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