Constantly learn about the space in which you are working.
Alex Genadinik is a software and a mobile developer. Ever since college, he has always had the spirit of an entrepreneur. During college he convinced the Computer Science department to collaborate with the Philosophy department to support a software project to put Socratic Dialogs online and make them interactive, where Socrates has a dialog with a student instead of the character in a dialog.
Alex has been making things ever since. In recent years, his approach is to locate very strong pain points and make solutions that truly change people’s lives for the better. The current pain point Alex is working on solving is combating the high failure rate of projects and businesses started by young entrepreneurs.
Alex first created a business plan mobile app where he helped entrepreneurs however he could. That led to the realization that many of the entrepreneurs suffered from a number of common problems. Either they had a bad idea or a bad idea-founder match, or they struggled to raise money, or they were not good at marketing their businesses.
That led to the idea for a suite of apps that coached the entrepreneur from the idea stage to growing their business, each app covering a big but separate part of the process. The full suite of apps is already available on Android and Kindle devices, and partially on iPhone and iPad. The main site for the project is http://www.problemio.com.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on a suite of mobile apps that take a person from pre-idea to an operational business in a very short amount of time. The only things the apps do not help with are legal issues, HR, and insurance.
There are 4 coaching apps in the suite that coach people in good practices in regards to business ideas, business planning, fundraising, and marketing.
Where did the idea for Problemio come from?
I wanted to help entrepreneurs plan their businesses better and avoid blind spots in terms of foresight of what is to come. I first created an open web forum where I thought people would use forums to help refine one anothers business ideas. But people wanted to be private about their businesses. So I scrapped that and made a business planning private mobile app.
In this mobile app, people were able to get advice from me. Over time, there have been over 5,000 on the app so I have become very good at helping companies. I noticed a few common issues: people struggled with business ideas, funding, and marketing. So I made peripheral apps for that to have a 4-app course.
How do you make money?
Most of the money comes from app sales. Some revenue is generated when a user opts into working with a professional business plan writing company we partnered with.
What does your typical day look like?
I mostly work on developing/programming features and improving the existing apps. A part of the day is spent helping people who downloaded the apps, and need live assistance with their businesses. Part of the value of the apps is that people get live expert advice at prices that are beyond reasonable.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a reasonably strong idea-vetting process after having tried many ideas which resulted in lukewarm results. So I have developed a good sense for what will and will not work. Once I like an idea, I evaluate how much resources it will require vs. risk vs. possible benefit. And if it feels favorable, I simply bring the idea to life on my own by making it.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I generally do not like trends as they create highly competitive fad-driven business environments where most people lose out. I like to choose non-trendy markets and solve real needs and pain points.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I liked all my jobs. During college I worked as a security guard and a construction worker to fund my education. They were not worst jobs. But construction was certainly the most difficult one. First, I learned that all jobs are to be respected. Construction taught me to appreciate people who do physical labor. Every time I see construction taking place, especially during rain, snow, or extreme hot weather, I remember how strong the relationships were that I forged with the people working side by side with me.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I am on an amazing ride which resulted from my own well thought out decisions that I am mostly happy with. Granted, there are many ups and downs to it, but I am enjoying them.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Constantly learn about the space in which you are working. For example, right now, I am working in the mobile space. Every few weeks there is something that happens that changes things and affect my product. For example, there are constantly faster Internet connections enabling various new features. There are also 3rd world countries being flooded with affordable devices, which forces me to think about using multiple languages on the apps. The list really goes on.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I previously ran a website which was growing well due to one SEO trick that was popular at that time. It was turning into quite a nice business. This SEO trick had been common for about 10+ years prior to me doing it, but at some point, Google decided to penalize it. In one day, my business was destroyed as most of the traffic got taken away.
I tried to revive the site for a few months, but at some point I had to make a hard decision to do something else. Lesson learned: stick to good practices. Eventually every platform matures and companies who operate with recommended practices tend to survive. You want to be in the group that survives.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Lawn care! It is the best business. Marketing is easy because competition tends to not excel at marketing. Additionally, your customers do not want to start looking for new lawn care companies, so they want to keep you. And grass keeps growing so it is a recurring business. It is a perfect combination. This business has some flaws, but it certainly has some nice pros about it too.
For a tech-related idea, I would like someone to build an app that tells me which local grocery stores have the items (with price comparisons) that I search for.
Additionally, I happen to have built a business idea app that coaches/suggests best practices, and ways of thinking so they can continuously come up with new good business ideas:
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Climate problems. If my current project succeeds, my next project will address the climate change issue.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I have been trying to quit Facebook for almost a year, but can not get myself to do it.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I love Google docs because while tech-savvy people can easily use them, they offer very simple and powerful collaboration tools for people who are just getting started with them.
Stackoverflow.com is a favorite site of mine. Without the help of the great people of that site, I would never have been able to get as far with my own projects. I highly recommend them to developers and people learning to write software.
And third is the show by Jason Calacanis called “This Week in Start-ups.” It is a weekly show where Jason interviews great entrepreneurs. I have personally learned a tremendous amount from that show.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Tech/business book: I am not a big believer in business books as most of the valuable content can be expressed in a single chapter. Tech books get outdated quickly. But now that I have an app on the Amazon Kindle, I would be remiss if I did not plug my own app on that reader:
Non-tech book: Confederacy of Dunces because I still vividly remember how it made me laugh out loud.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why? (please don’t include yourself)
I enjoy following @jason because he runs the “This Week In Startups” show and is a great resource for entrepreneurs. Probably he is the single best resource for entrepreneurs. I would also recommend @arrington because his opinions are interesting albeit often cranky. I also like @lordofseo. The person running that account is kind of mean to Google, but often underlines some very poignant and relevant points regarding how Google operates its search and AdWords products.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Yesterday when my cat did yet another cute thing.
Who is your hero, and why?
All professional athletes. In my youth and early 20s I played organized soccer and have gained an understanding for just how difficult is the work of a professional athlete. I admire them for making it to the top of their sport.
How to get more downloads for my app?
Put the app in alternative app markets, meaning markets other than Google Play or Apple App Store. Such markets are Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and many others.
This was a question I answered for myself very recently so I am glad to share my answer.
What is the meaning of life?
To know yourself deeply and to base decisions on that. And also not to worry too much. Channel your inner zen.