The Ups and Downs of Being an Entrepreneur

an interview with
Jeff Stier President, Blurts

Why did you want to be an entrepreneur in the first place?
My career started in a creative corporate environment, the advertising world.  But  the idea of someone monitoring and curating my ideas didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to run with my ideas and figure out for myself if they were good or bad; not have someone else tell me.

Where did the idea for Blurts first come from?
I was working hard at a major ad agency and not seeing my kids a lot.  They kept leaving voice mail messages for me, and I kept saving the ones I thought were really special like: “Daddy, I know you couldn’t be here but I scored my first goal today.” One day I went to play one of my favorite saved messages for my wife but it was gone, eaten by the voicemail devils.   Losing that voicemail stabbed my heart emotionally much like losing the only picture I owned of my beloved dog growing up. At the moment of that loss I realized that under the right circumstances and as told by the right person—- a voice mail or a voice memory, or a blurt— was as important a media for saving and sharing memories  as text, photo or video.

What does it really take to be an entrepreneur?
The three P’s:  passion, persistence and patience.

Did you have any major pivots?
I’ve evolved the business model at least three times in response to market direction and consumer behavioral shirts.  Because I was at JWT I was as the forefront of the convergence of brand story telling and user generated content. I thought to myself what better way for brands to encourage consumers to be part of the online conversation then by suing their voices.  By letting them literally be heard.  This was a major moment for us.  Also the concurrent rise of mobile and social media which has created an online environment in which millions of people want to share everything including their voice and opinions.

Talk to me about the challenges of raising that first round of money
The first round was the easiest in many ways. It was an emotional appeal to friends and family. They were mostly older and I said you’re at an age when you’re starting to look back and understand what your life story and history was. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could easily tell that story in your own voice and have it preserved for generations to listen to?  That struck a cord.

Give me a sense of the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur
Not everyone has the immediate emotional connection with Blurts that I want them to because Blurts is my baby.  I hate when they give me a blank stare which means they just don’t get it.   This happens all the time in money raising to. Every high net worth individual, VC or angel has their own point of view.  Sometime I’ll have a meeting one day and the potential investor rails on the model for X reason.  The next day in a different meeting a different potential investor LOVES X.  This drives me crazy.  Can everyone please just make up their minds and get on the same page?!

Is there a moment as an entrepreneur, where you say “What am I doing?”
I have a moment like that almost every day. To keep going forward those moments have to be balanced by moments of exultation which we are lucky to have our share of.  For example, a couple of weeks ago the  #1 video news site in France ran a two minute story on Blurts.  They get 19mm unique monthly viewers in the US and over 50 mm globally. When we saw that we were like “wow!, we’ve birthed something, from scratch that people are talking about. Without those moments I think many entrepreneurs would be jumping off cliffs.

There’s a lot of angst. A lot of time, effort and thinking invested into the business.  There are people you inevitably disappoint along the way and you try to limit those. But no matter what happens you have to stubbornly stick to the vision because if you didn’t have stubborn visionaries you would never get past the naysayers and the bumps along the way.  I have to say that life during a company’s early growth is not the most pleasant or healthiest  way to live.

Did you have any epiphanies along the way?

I remember the CEO [Note to reader: that would be me] of our agency  walking into the room one day after we had been through meeting after meeting and  he said, “it’s not easy making something simple.” If you’re going to build a utility like blurts make it stupid simple.  In the end we did that.  We spent a lot of time and effort that I wouldn’t take that back for anything in the world. Because everyone talks about how easy it is to use  blurts to infuse passion and nuance into flat unemotional tweets. photos, texts, emails and more.

What’s next?
We’re at a tipping point:  great reviews, fantastic and expanding partner base, and  growing usage.  We’re looking for the next level of financial partners. Strategics who not only bring money but also experience, relationships and a passion for disruption and change.  Partners who share our vision for building a global open mike and soapbox that makes it easy for everyone to be heard in the social sphere…with the texture, tone and authenticity of their own voice.

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