Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it's Paul Kemp, and I'm here to bring you some of the best founders that we can find from around the world, and deconstruct their journeys so that we can learn in our own entrepreneurial journey. So if you're an entrepreneur, startup founder, or perhaps you're just interested in the journeys of entrepreneurs, this is the show for you. Let me introduce to you today's guest. He is a legend, I actually feel that we're going to learn a huge amount from our guest. His name is Carter Wigell and he was previously the co-founder and CEO of a company that was recently sold to Accenture, called Cloud Sherpas. He's also launched a new company called Ideator, and there is a past episode that you can go and search for on theappguy.co about launching Ideator on Product Hunt. Let's talk to Carter, so Carter - welcome to The App Guy Podcast.
Carter: Thank you Paul great to be here.
Paul: Let's talk about your transition then. I guess you moved after selling Cloud Sherpas, and you are now fully involved in Ideator. How is that transition going?
Carter: It's been great. Just for quick clarification, I was actually the CEO of a company called Cloud Trigger, and we sold Cloud Trigger to Cloud Sherpas; that was then acquired by Accenture. But it's been an amazing journey, and I couldn't be more excited. The transition actually has been somewhat easy for me since I had a team that was actually working on Ideator for about the last year, so I've been advising Ideator and officially stepped over on January 1st of this year.
Paul: I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to learn about Ideator. I think anybody listening to this should pause and perhaps go back and listen to the full episode on Ideator. But if you were to do an elevator pitch to us for, can you do an elevator pitch for Ideator?
Carter: Sure, absolutely. We are basically trying to help entrepreneurs of all different races, genders and ages with their ideas. So we are helping them by providing the tools, resources, and connections that they need to be successful.
Paul: Now, Carter, I would love to know, now you're fully involved in this, what your plans are, how you're actually going to help grow Ideator from I guess a starting point to become a massive success. What are your plans to get involved now with the team?
Carter: Yes, great question. So we have some big plans for 2016. Really for us in 2015 it was about making sure that we really understood the needs of the entrepreneur, so we really built Ideator with that in mind, and that was really the first phase. As we move into 2016, there's a lot of focus on how do we connect the advisors and investors, and really create some of those algorithms for people to get access to the tools and resources that they need. So a little bit more on the frontend, really think about that [unintelligible 00:06:10] capability to connect you to the right skill sets, and then from the resource perspective, we're working on partnerships with companies like GoDaddy, LegalZoom, SalesForce.com, and Google. So my focus is not only around the product and making sure that the product can scale and provide value, but also developing strategic partnerships in the market, so we've got a great opportunity to help student entrepreneurs. We're working with a number of different schools and universities, and I'm working with some big corporations and organizations, as we both have a similar ambition to help these student entrepreneurs.
Paul: So Carter, for all those entrepreneurs listening now, what do you find are the most common problems facing entrepreneurs when trying to run a successful startup?
Carter: Yes, it's a great question, and it can really be different based on the entrepreneur. A lot of the people on our platform, I thought we would have just the ideation stage. So I have an idea, and what do I do next? But the reality is we have a lot of startups and entrepreneurs that already have a product or a service in the market. Typically on the ideation side, where I see people really struggling as they don't actually have a plan, and as fundamental as that sounds, it really helps to understand from a prioritization standpoint what needs to happen, who are the team members you need, what are the resources you need, funding, etc. So I'm not necessarily a big advocate that you need a 40-50-page business plan, but you need a plan, and then ongoing, a lot of the challenges that we see with entrepreneurs and startups is execution and finding the right team members. Funding is definitely one, but it's not typically one of the main early reasons that we see people fail.
Paul: Yes. In fact, I was actually wondering about the points of transparency, and with Ideator, you are encouraged to be quite transparent with your idea. How important do you feel it is in success by being very open about your idea, and very transparent?
Carter: Yes, it's a good question. I mean, there's definitely a philosophy out there to fail fast, fail early, so people aren't spending a lot of time, money and energy on something that actually might not have a good market opportunity. But really, we actually allow people on Ideator to have a private space, or a public space, and the vision behind that was we wanted to encourage serial entrepreneurs to have a space that they could collaborate on, but certainly the more that you can share publicly it means that you can get better connected to the right advisors and mentors, which certainly is not a new concept. So we understand that there are certain parts and certain information of your data, or a plan, or otherwise that you want to keep private, and you can.
Paul: I was actually thinking, with Ideator you're almost taking the role of what 10-20 years ago would have been the bank because you're helping entrepreneurs connect with investors and get a business plan. Do you feel like this is becoming the role of what the bank used to be 10 years ago?
Carter: We definitely want Ideator to be a place that people can start foundationally with their ideas, and I guess the analogy you're making around the bank is we grow over time, we will be providing more capabilities for people to fundraise, either on the platform or create integrations to other platforms or institutions that people can actually raise money, because certainly that is the key aspect of every startup - they need money. So if I'm following you right, Paul, I think in general today what we do well is we help incubate these ideas and these startups, and I think there's an analogy there to the bank, that you're making.
Paul: You know, when we first started talking you were in some exotic location, I think. I would like to know what a typical day is for you, to inspire anybody listening to this, who may be quite amazed at how much travel perhaps you have and how much you get involved in meeting lots of different people around the world. So what's a typical day like for you, Carter?
Carter: Yes, I appreciate it. It's been an adjustment because I also have a new baby. My wife and I have a six-month-old daughter, and I think that in itself is... Those people who have children or babies out there understand. A lot of it does come down to... You know, I believe the early bird gets the worm. I wake up at 5 A.M., so it's actually 6:45 here in San Francisco this morning, and I think it's really important that you have a scheduled day, you have certain things that you need to accomplish. Without time management, it's really, really hard in a position like mine because prioritization is everything. It's hard to balance that because you want to be out networking with a lot of different people, organizations, but if you don't have a real focus on the KPIs and metrics that you're trying to achieve for a given month, given quarter. For a startup, time is really gold, so I think it's really having that focus, having a plan, so my team, we actually on January 1st hit the ground running with a great 2016 vision and executional plan that everybody understands on my team where their focus is. We'll certainly pivot and change as we move forward, but again, for me personally, success is really making sure that I'm up early and that I can accomplish the things that I want to in a given day, because there's so much to do from my seat, from fundraising, to PR, to day-to-day product sales, marketing, strategic relationships... And again, I think it's having that focus and prioritization.
Paul: So Carter, I'm someone who previously had a corporate job and left to pursue the life as an entrepreneur, and I'm sure there's lots of people listening to this now who are in corporate jobs. You've been very successful, and you had, I guess, an opportunity to stay in corporate, but you really wanted to carry on and start something new, and go in a different direction as a startup founder. What would you advise to anyone sitting in a corporate job - is it worth becoming a startup founder, in your experience?
Carter: Yes, a great question. I think I've been called crazy twice, at this point. I was at SalesForce.com for 10 years, and anybody who's followed SalesForce.com, I mean, what an incredible company, and I feel so fortunate to have worked there. When I started, there were about 100 employees, and it was great. This was the early days when Mark Benioff would come by my desk and ask what's in the pipeline. I just had a tremendous opportunity to grow at that company up with a lot of amazing mentors, and when I got this entrepreneurial spirit, it was a hard decision to leave SalesForce, and I probably had about eight or ten different managers and executives at SalesForce tell me crazy, and how great my W2 was, and all that was very real, but I was so determined and excited to have the opportunity to start Cloud Trigger. And certainly I knew that there was high risk, but I was mentally prepared for that. So I think one of the most important lessons that I took from leaving the corporate world is certainly there's more security in a larger corporation for employees, but the best advice I got was from a leadership coach... I was ready to go put in my two weeks notice at SalesForce.com and she said, "There's no way you can do that. You've been there for 9-10 years and no matter all the great things that you did at that company, everyone's going to remember how you left that company." And it was probably one of the best pieces of advice that I got leaving the corporate world, because it took me a month and a half to get out of the company, and I had just about everybody in the company kind of turn around and say "Thank you for everything that you've done here." Mark Benioff actually ended up investing in my first company, the CEO of SalesForce.com. So again, I think there's just great value in making sure that if and when you make that jump, to understand that those relationships that you've made in the corporate world are important or critical. So for me, I've done it twice. After we sold to Accenture I also had an amazing job opportunity, but I think entrepreneurs, they have the DNA within them, and a desire to go start something new. I'm personally really passionate about entrepreneurs that want to go start a great company that might get to a couple million in revenue, certainly to entrepreneurs that want to highly disrupt. I don't think that there's one personally that's better than the other.
Paul: So there's two more things we need to do then, Carter, before we say goodbye to you. The first one is that we love to try and identify what's happening in technology and the market, and you have such a rich source of information, in a way, from ideas coming on, and you're seeing what's happening. Would you be able to pick up on one trend that is going to help us in what we're doing? So a trend in the market, from technology.
Carter: Oh, that's a good question. With regard to Ideator, I think what's most exciting to me is a lot of ideas that we're getting on the platform are different education ideas and social good ideas, and I think at the end of the day right now those are the ones that I'm most passionate about, and it's really people that are trying to solve different ideas, or problems around the water problem in California, ideas around poverty, or human trafficking. So I definitely think above and beyond some of the social challenges that we're having just in California, certainly globally issues that we're having. So for me, technology in these areas of education and social good, social causes I think are the most impactful. We had a team of students from MIT on our platforms that are trying to solve lung cancer, so there's just kind of a widespread number of different technology ideas that are happening on our platform, but the ones that I'm most excited about, that I feel will make the greatest impact are around education and social good.
Paul: So finally, here's a new one, Carter. I'd love to ask you this, because as entrepreneurs, what we've learned in this show is that it's sometimes very hard to focus, and as someone who has a platform of new ideas hitting them everyday, how hard is it for you to focus? You must be very tempted to invest in many of the ideas coming on the platform because they just sound so compelling. Give us some advice on your ability to focus on one thing.
Carter: Yes, it's a great question. I am not in a place right now that I can certainly see every single idea come through the platform; one, again, because there's a lot of private ideas on our platform, but number two, really for us it's about growing the community that can help these entrepreneurs and startups, so it was important to me early that we were able to get engaged with all the entrepreneurs and startups, as they're coming through the platforms. So we have an amazing community manager on the platform - if you signed up, you'll see Jessica on there. So she's been able to engage with a lot of entrepreneurs and startups. We also do have an advisory program where people are submitting to be accepted into the advisory program and some of those startups I'm actually helping to consult. But we are getting hundreds of signups a day, we have users in a hundred different countries, and so I certainly can't keep up with all ideas, but we've got a great community and we have a lot of people that are engaged, and when people are creating public goals we're looking for certain skill sets for getting involved in our discussions forum. They're getting help quickly, so I feel like the platform is providing a lot of value.
Paul: Just to pick up on that last thing you said about being an advisor... I mean, that sounds really interesting. How important is it to have some kind of external advisor on either your board or as part of the decision-making executive team? Because it sounds to me like that would actually be very powerful and helping the success for a company. Do you think it's important?
Carter: I think it's really important, almost critical, because most entrepreneurs, it's their first time, they're not serial entrepreneurs, and there's plenty of great stories out there in the market, but the reality is that a lot of successful people have the right connections, whether it's through investment channels or distribution. Everybody has seen the show The Shark Tank, so while people are going on The Shark Tank because they need money, they're also hoping that Mark Cuban or Mr. Wonderful has the right connections to actually scale their business. So a lot of early companies are able to bring on a seasoned executive or individual who's scaled an organization at the level that they're hoping for, so I think it's really important. I also think it's critical that the advisors really understand when they're being approached by the entrepreneur, what are the key areas that you need help with, and I think there's a challenge there, in a lot of entrepreneurs not knowing what to ask for. So as we grow over time, we're providing different tools and assets to, again, create those connections, but also be able to provide things like advisor agreements and give them some better education on how to interact with those advisors.
Paul: So to everyone listening, I do remember having quite a few chats of different candidates that have gone through Shark Tank, and those were fascinating past episodes, so they can go and listen to that by going to theappguy.co. This has been just a terrific, inspired chat, Carter, and I know that you're such a great speaker and also have a huge amount of patience, because we've had some technical issues with the first recording, so thanks so much for trying again. What I would like to do is just ask how people reach out to connect with you or the community at Ideator.
Carter: Sure, I'm definitely very open. You can reach me at Carter@Ideator.com, and certainly if you sign up for Ideator, the platform is free, so if you have an idea, or you just want to collaborate you can find me on the platform. You can also find Jessica on there. Many, many people from Ideator are accessible and lots of people from the community. So we're very excited, and thank you, Paul, you've been a big help to Ideator and you got us out there on Product Hunt, which was really successful for Ideator, so I really thank you, you've been great.