As part of a new series here at Grasshopper we are going to be featuring entrepreneurs from across the globe. We want to learn more about them, get inside their head and find out what it takes to make it in the world of business.
__This week we are featuring Jonathan Mendez. Jon is extremely well known throughout the online marketing and advertising world, running several successful businesses, speaking at conferences and of course through his blog 'Optimize & Prophesize'.
Jon, you have founded how many companies now?
A bunch. I'm in the process of starting my fourth Internet business but I've been a lifelong entrepreneur. My first business was in Elementary school. I Xeroxed a bunch of album sleeves and articles from sports magazines and stapled them together in a 'magazine' that I sold for 5 cents on the playground. Of course my mother has the only surviving issue. In high school I made a connection with the local Champion sales rep and bought his quarterly sales samples of jerseys, jackets, sweatshirts, etc and resold them to kids in my high school. Eventually we started designing and ordering our own custom lines from Champion. My biggest regret as an entrepreneur is not taking that business with me to college.
What made you want to start your own company initially?
It just never made sense to me to work for someone else besides myself or my family. I was greatly inspired before starting my own business by working for my father who is a successful entrepreneur in technology. By 1998 I had been fully captivated by the potential of the web to change everything about our lives and I wanted to play a part in shaping that. I didn't know anything about how it worked from a technology perspective but it was pretty clear, even on AOL dial-up that the web would redefine everything and the business opportunities in it over my lifetime would be endless.
Tell us a little bit about Relevance Amplified (RAMP). How was starting this company different from starting OTTO Digital (now Omniture Digital) or Vitamin Lab?
When I started VitaminLab and OTTO I had a very clear picture from the get-go of what kinds of businesses I wanted to create and the problems we would solve. We had specific goals and we were zealous in our efforts to achieve them. When I started Relevance Amplified it was really about professional discovery. I had the luxury of time to experiment with a number of technologies and services while trying to figure out what business problems were most important to solve. So the business/product focus for Relevance Amplified has been emergent based on a ton of learning and also because the web changes so quickly. This has hurt short-term revenue but over the past year we have started executing on the ultimate vision, which may or may not end-up being another start-up all together.
What has been or is the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur?
The difficult part is realizing that no one is going to be as passionate about what you are trying to create as you are. That doesn't mean you can't get people excited or inspired. However, one thing it does mean is that you can't hold people to the same expectations you might set for yourself. Dealing with that realization I've found to be difficult in many ways.
For the person thinking of starting a company, what are three things they need to know but aren’t going to find in any books?
It takes twice as long and costs three times as much
Everyone's personality changes when money is involved
Be prepared to work 18 hour days not because you need to but because you want to. Otherwise, you are in the wrong business.
You have a very successful blog, Optimize & Prophesize, which I’m sure has helped your business grow. Would you recommend that those starting a business create their own blog?
Yes, but the prerequisite is that you have to be a writer. I've been writing consistently in one form of another for 25 years so blogging for me has been a natural outlet. If you are not a writer then don't force yourself to do it. You will fail and you will be taking precious time away from other things that could be helping your business grow. If you do blog, I think it should be a personal blog that covers the business subject not a business subject blog that is covered by a person. If you look at some of the most successful blogs this seems to be the running theme whether it is Seth Godin for Marketing. Avinash for Web Analytics or Perez Hilton for Celebrity. In all types of blogging people make their emotional connection not with the subject but with the author.
And lastly, is there anything you want our readers to know about you?
In relation to being an Entrepreneur I think I will share that I truly love the medium of the web. I have deep rooted passion to change the digital marketing world by making our experiences on it more relevant. In fact, I have this little joke on my LinkedIn profile that my job is Crusader for Relevance. I see that same passion at Grasshopper to help Entrepreneurs. That's probably why I like you guys so much!
A big thanks for Jon for taking the time to answer our questions. Check out his blog, Optimize & Prophesize or Relevance Amplified for more information. Or you could always follow him on Twitter @JonathanMendez.