We’ve heard that Momentage is an app that is is almost “anti-selfie.” Tell us about what that means.
(George) “You know, it’s interesting, we’re not sure where that’s coming from. It must have been picked up in the media, I have no idea. Don’t get me wrong, one of the things that we’re focused in on is defining community values. One thing that we have both observed, there is no such thing in social networks. They’re self-defined by the user and we are trying to work with our users to define the values that are most important to them and coincidentally from the very beginning, because of what the app’s allowing people to do, they are enjoying the fact that they are enriching each other with experiences.
We want the community to have full freedom of expression, we don’t want to take that away from them. We really don’t want what we call internally, you know, “assholes” on the app and what I mean by that is people that are bullying each other or being nasty to each other. The one thing the app does though, if you want to see selfies, you can, but we’re not going to subject the public in general so if you go to our discover site which is the public site that we recognize with really cool moments that are capturing the creativity of our users, you’re not going to see a lot of selfies there. But we’re not in a position, and we never will be, to tell our users don’t do selfies, we are just controlling it by letting them do it in the community they want to be exposed to.”
What has been your biggest obstacle in launching momentage?
(George) “From my perspective, I would say, making sure we have the right people in the right roles doing the right things. I would say the one area specifically that has been a challenge but we are very good at where we are at today is getting the right technologists. It’s somewhat comical at times, but we’ve been through several over the years and the newest one usually tells us that the prior one wasn’t that good. Not all the time, but more times than others was the case. So finding the right technologists with the right substance, technical capability and business acumen was a challenge, but right now we are standing in really good shape. Beyond that, managing that multi-generational diversity that has someone in their early twenties working with someone in their late forties, that’s not an easy thing but when you get it to work it’s magic.”
What do you think are the qualities to look for in finding a good business partner?
(Joann) “For me, I think the qualities are that the two individuals can’t be wanting or the same type or personalities. I think there would be too much friction in that sense so I think that it would be great to recognize what your strengths and your own weaknesses are and find someone to compliment you from that perspective, but overall there is definitely a trust and respect factor that has to happen no matter what, hands down.”
(George) “Yeah JoAnn just hit it on a nerve, I just don’t want to lose sight of this, it’s so, so critical to success and that’s self awareness. Everything starts there. The lack of self awareness will be destructive in any relationship or any business environment. If you don’t know who you are, you’re not going to be able to compliment your skills, you’re not going to be able to communicate effectively, you’re just not going to move the needle.”
What kind of wisdom can you give me in seeking a relationship while trying to grow a business?
(Joann) “For myself, I have two children, a boy and a girl, 11 year old twins. When they were first born, I was working in corporate America so I was doing more of the day care situation there, but early on when I started this whole venture and working together to build something from scratch, they have actually grown up in it and it’s been really nice. There’s no perfect work-life balance but this is a great one because they’re actually seeing something come to life, they’re enjoying it as much as we are, they’re providing feedback and they are really understanding in what is involved early on to make it work and we have a little bit of the flexibility that we need to drop our computers and spend a little time with our family when we need to. So I don’t want to say it’s ever perfect, but I would say that when you are doing a startup it becomes a family involvement and everyone becomes passionate about it, everyone is living and breathing it, so it’s a nice quality to have your kids grow up in so they get a good understanding of what it takes to make something and what hard work really brings.”
What do you think is the most important aspect that young entrepreneurs should be focused on right now?
(George) “The first thing that comes to my mind, and I’ve been exposed to several early twenties in different work environments and different academic environments, quite frankly the one area, it’s less about what to do in your personal life and what to do in your professional life. It’s more about communicating effectively so that you can be heard and that exists in both in personal relationships and professional ones and I’ve grown up in corporate America myself and I’ve run several big businesses, the one thing that will fracture success, I don’t care if its personal or professional, is not communicating in a way that is clear, transparent, open, honest, meaningful- it’s such a critical skill set. It’s really challenging right now because we have so many different generations in the work-force that have grown up with different ways of communicating and dealing with family and professional life. If anyone would ask me what I would approve, its less about going to focus on and follow your heart and do the startup first, you can always get married at a later date, it’s more about mastering communications in a way that makes everything else in your life much easier.”
As an experienced business professional, what would you say to young entrepreneurs who get too focused on making money?
(George) “I have a very strong opinion on that. If you are pursuing any career, and I don’t really care what age you are at and it’s for money, I think you’re setting yourself up for one of two outcomes- absolute failure, because you’ll never achieve the amount that you want and then secondly, probably some form of depression, or some form of dissatisfaction, unhappiness would be the easiest way to say it. The money is important in a sense because it helps you get things from point A to point B, don’t get me wrong I’m not discounting the importance of the relevance or what it brings to life, it brings a lot and both JoAnn and I both think our lives have been benefitted from that, but if you’re number one priority is going to do a startup because you want to become the next billionaire, for me, what I get really driven by and what I would tell any entrepreneur, the most satisfaction you are going to receive in life is when you create value. And how do you create value? It’s by delivering something that other people are willing to pay for and when you do that, that’s masterful and if you can repeat it over and over again and not be a one hit wonder, that’s even that much more beautiful. If you are pursuing something, medicine, law, business, journalism, because you want to go give money, that’s not going to give you excellence.”
(Joann) “I think that’s all true right on. I also think that there’s wealth in experience. People try to jump steps and then end up go backwards as they get older, so if you are young, take your time, it’s so enriching to go out there and actually learn a whole bunch of things and put that together to build off of that. The money comes and it will definitely be there and it does make life easier at times, sometimes it can make it more complicated, but I don’t think it should be one of the top three goals of what you do when you wake up in the morning.”
What is the best advice you’ve ever received in your business experience?
(JoAnn) “I would say the best piece of advice is to really just speak up, speak from the heart, and say exactly what you feel so not matter what the product is or the people you are with, if you are to see from your angle and not afraid to share most of the time, it can really be something that could be changing and really make an impact on the product, the company and the business. So don’t hold back. I think especially for women, that has always been something of the past and now everyone wants to have their voice heard so it’s less about fear and just about putting yourself out there and making sure that what you believe in is really put on the table to really make a difference.”
(George) “I think JoAnn encapsulated it very well and maybe another way to frame it is you have to create a climate it’s safe to fail. You have to say what’s on your mind. Thinking about it another way, what’s the number one compliment I’ve ever received in the position I’ve been in, and I didn’t understand it in the beginning but it was one of the folks on my team who would say you need to make it safe to fail. It took me a while to understand what that meant but you create a climate that’s very productive and you have to be open minded and you have to be willing to listen to other people’s opinions.”
What exciting projects do you have coming up?
(George) “We can’t tell him, can we? (laughter) Actually right now we are very dedicated to Momentage… but we think we’ve come up with a really cool idea and we are working with the intellectual property attorneys right now, so we’re not going to share what it is but I’ll tell you what it is trying to solve- a very unique way to monetize social media. So just think about it today, everyone just advertises, we think we’ve come up with something that is more powerful so thats something that’s in the R&D department which is basically… us. We have more ideas than time! (laughter) We are having fun doing it.”