I am becoming involved in the entrepreneurship community not only in Tampa, but also Online. I am so intrigued by companies that start with a simple idea and push themselves to achieve greatness. I can personally tell you that it isn’t easy to do any of that. It’s hard and sometimes there are tears, stress and the feeling of failure. My business partner (in Geek Is Single) and I recently attended the Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference here in Tampa at UT where there were so many amazing, successful and driven entrepreneurs speaking, telling their stories and offering their advice where and when they could. This is where I met Jonathan Kay. Jonathan quickly caught my attention because he was so open, genuinely nice and extremely talkative. He was set to speak the next day and I was eager to hear what he was speaking about.
Let’s just say that Jonathan is passion, focus, determination and awesome all rolled up into one person. His passion for simply sharing and helping was so visible while he was giving his presentation. I’m not sure if I have ever told him this, but he inspired me to be more focused and pretty much to just effin do it!
I wanted to ask Jonathan some questions because he inspired me so much. I’m hoping that the inspiration I got out of his presentation is similar to what you take away from this collaborative post. This is part one and the second part is Jonathan getting answers to questions about me and what I do. We hope you enjoy it and if anything take away the passion and determination to just go out and freaking reach for the stars because you can do it too!
Kim: What do you think the biggest fear is when launching a startup besides the fear of ultimate failure?
Jonathan: I know it seems silly but I actually don’t think peoples biggest fear is “failure”. Or at least it shouldn’t be, considering somewhere around 70-80% of startups end up “failing”. I think people are scared to put themselves out there and take a chance on a new idea. In order to start a company you really need to put yourself on the line, and be open to people disagreeing with you, thinking you are stupid, etc. You have to be able to take that feedback, and use it to make your idea stronger…not get discouraged. It’s similar to why people didn’t like raising their hand in school; your idea could be “dumb”. The reality is that people will most likely disagree with you…can you handle that?
Kim: Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t usually easy, what advice can you give to people that you wish you knew?
Jonathan: Find a co-founder. Sharing your highs and lows with someone else is much better (and more fun) than doing it alone. Also, you know when you read something over 20 times and it starts to look/sound the same? Even though there is clearly a mistake. Imagine feeling that like that for the entire life of your startup? Having a sound board to bounce crazy ideas off of is so valuable. Also, some of the most successful startups have 2 founders that have very different expertise. This helps as it allows you to put your head down and focus on one thing, while your partner does the other.
I would also recommend you take a lot of walks outside. It’s so healthy to breathe fresh air, change your scenery, and just get your blood flowing, etc. In fact, I have some of my best ideas when I am just walking around Boston listening to music.
Kim: What are some successful companies that motivate you? (Who if anyone has been your greatest motivation?)
Jonathan: I actually think it’s more the people that motivate me versus the companies. I would have to say David Hauser has been my biggest motivation so far. He believes in really helping entrepreneurs. He told me one time, that even if one day we fail, at least we helped a lot of people along the way. I have so much respect for that. He also allows his employees to make their own mistakes, which is really powerful and ends up making your employees want to work that much harder for you.
I also have been really motivated my Andrew Warner of Mixergy. His story is really motivating; I mean this guy has built an UNBELIEVABLE following with Mixergy. He isn’t a genius, and he isn’t a multi billionaire, he is just really authentic. He wakes up every morning and does what he loves. He is so genuine that you can’t help but love him…that is how I want to be known.
Last I’ll say Noah Kagan who founded AppSumo. Noah built his business around a couple things. 1. He builds and maintains relationships with cool companies. He makes sure he really finds value to offer these companies (and won’t work with you if he doesn’t think he can help). 2. He truly cares about his email subscribers, and will do anything to make sure they have a positive experience. He would take money out of his pocket and refund someone on the street if he thought they were unhappy. Lastly, he has fun with it…this is something most companies completely overlook. You have to have fun along the way, otherwise why do it? Also, having fun is contagious, and so his users end up having a much more positive experience on his site!
Kim: Do you know of any (that you can tell us) companies that are going to be making a big splash in the coming months?
Jonathan: I am not sure this is a surprise at this point, but I think the Wufoo / Survey Monkey partnership is going to be a really exciting one. Wufoo, the zen masters of design, meets a survey company who has big reach, but desperately needs UI/UX help. That’s one I am keeping my eye on big time. I also happen to think companies like Shopify and StorEnvy who are servicing the ecommerce market are going to blow up. They are making what could be a difficult process super simple, which allows creative folks to focus on what they do best….create awesome things! Also, these companies are built around their communities. So unlike a startup that simply sells a product and could get stale, these communities will fight to survive. That’s powerful.
Kim: For me , my biggest challenge was finding resources that explained what I needed to start a business and what was need to keep it going. This is just one reason why I like to be a part of the entrepreneurship community and give help where and as needed. Do you know of any great resources for new startups that many do not know about?
Jonathan: I completely get that. I mean it’s crazy trying to start a company. There are so many directions you can go, so many resources, and so much you need to do (all at the same time!). How anyone can actually go to sleep at night is beyond me! Either way, I was fortunate recently to meet the founders of Wicked Start. Their goal is to walk you through each step of the process, and provide both resources and suggestions at each point of the process. I think they brand themselves as your “Startup Co-pilot”. The best part is it’s free to use! I mean who doesn’t love free help?
Other resources I would recommend are websites like http://thesmallbusinessweb.com/ – when this many cool companies come together around one idea, you know there is something there. There are a ton of really kick ass companies involved in The Small Business Web, definitely a good starting point to get your feet wet. Outside of that I would identify the few companies you really like/trust and look at who their partners are. Even better, reach out to them and ASK THEM who they would recommend? I have people do that to me all the time, and I always introduce them to the contacts and brands I trust the most.
Lastly, just talk to as many people as you can. When I feel lost, I try and go out to coffee and drinks as much as I can with other entrepreneurs. Talking with other likeminded people will not only motivate you but get you going in the right direction.
I am always around to help if I can (jkay [at] grasshopper [dot] com or @jonathanckay ).
Stay tuned for part two…
Jonathan Kay is the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper Group, a brand which empowers entrepreneurs to succeed
with a suite of products they love to use. Over 2 years ago Jonathan was brought on to create what is today known as the “Buzz Department”.This function is responsible for creating and influencing everything word of mouth related. Since Jonathan joined the team, Grasshopper Group has been mentioned in some form of “media” nearly every other day!
Jonathan tends to be overflowing with passion and is always excited at the opportunity of meeting new entrepreneurs. He is forever curious, loves trying new things and is big into storytelling.
Jonathan is also a co-founder of The BarCamp Tour – a brand new initiative designed to help entrepreneurial communities throughout the country.
To learn more about Jonathan’s venture, visit: www.barcamptour.com