As a product leader it’s your role to take an idea and bring it to life. You need to define the high-level vision. You need to explain your thought process behind the vision. You need to lay out an actionable road map. Most importantly you need to say no to action items that do not support the vision.
Ari Mir brings over 10 years of entrepreneurial product leadership experience to Pocket Change. He is best known for co-founding GumGum.com, the world’s largest In-image Ad-network, reaching 100M+ unique visitors per month. Ari also cofounded MoJungle which was acquired in ’07. He has held senior product roles at BizRate/ShopZilla and LowerMyBills. He is an LA native.
What are you working on right now?
In 2011 I cofounded Pocket Change, a universal gaming currency. Pocket Change is funded by Google Ventures, First Round Capital and a notable group of angel investors.
Where did the idea for Pocket Change come from?
My co-founder (Amos Elliston) and I are big gamers and we’ve always wanted to be a part of the industry. So in May of 2011 we set out to create a casual game for iOS. When it came time to making money from our game we were shocked by the lack of options in the marketplace. The few options that did exist provided for a poor user experience. Having built monetization platforms for the majority of our careers we quickly realized there was a huge opportunity for innovation. With Pocket Change we hope to sit at the intersection of monetization and user experience.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m a product CEO. I believe everything from sales to engineering should be driven by a clear product vision and an actionable road map. I spend the majority of my day refining our road map and making sure every team in our organization is executing to support our vision. I also read a ton! I take the Warren Buffett approach to product strategy. You need to have a sixth sense regarding industry trends to best navigate the waters and I find the only way is to overwhelm yourself with information.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As a product leader it’s your role to take an idea and bring it to life. You need to define the high-level vision. You need to explain your thought process behind the vision. You need to lay out an actionable road map. Most importantly you need to say no to action items that do not support the vision. Teams are inspired by confidence and passion.
What’s one trend that really excited you?
3D printing! It’s going to take 10+ years for a 3D printer to be in every home but it will one day happen and I hope to somehow be involved.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
During college I scored a coveted internship at Merrill Lynch (or was it Morgan Stanley, same BS). I was in Los Angeles but still had to wake up on East Coast time which was a nightmare because I was partying pretty hard every night. But that wasn’t the worst part. I quickly realized how unsophisticated the systems and the people behind the systems were and it scared me because they were investing other peoples’ hard earned money. To this day I haven’t and I probably won’t ever invest in the public markets. There are too many idiots influencing the markets.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would focus on leveraging existing waves and only innovating 1-2 years out. My first business, EATING, was a print magazine. I did it because I wanted something sexy and I ignored the massive wave that was blogging. My second business, MoJungle, was Instagram but pre-smartphones. Timing is everything in tech because so much changes in so little time. There were a lot of people that did YouTube in the late 90′s.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Remove friction. Look at everything from your sales cycle to your product flow. Remove the BS out and push the envelope to streamline the system.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Every non-technical co-founder has a hell of a time finding a technical co-founder. I recommend you go work for 12 months at a bloated tech company that is either dying or post acquisition/IPO. Develop your idea and meet the team you will probably work with for the majority of your career.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have too many ideas to do myself so I love giving them away. If you’re a first time entrepreneur with a shallow understanding of tech I would focus on e-commerce. This is the perfect vertical for you to get your feet wet. It’s low risk and places more emphasis on skills like marketing, merchandising, branding and sales. I would look into serving the 1% of society by creating high-end e-commerce experiences. One idea is green living.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Education. I would make it free and readily available to everyone.
Tell us a secret.
I don’t like secrets. :)
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Techmeme.com gives me my daily dosage of content. Gmail is my second brain. YouTube puts a smile on my face.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I tell every entrepreneur I meet to read “Getting Real” by 37signals. As technologists we want to build and build and build, but what we really need to focus on is how to build fewer better quality products/services.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I think I was watching Mad Men, but I forget the context. I have a horrible memory, hence why I love Gmail.
Who is your hero?
Steve, Sergey and Larry.
What is the most important character trait to have as an entrepreneur?
You need to be able to handle the emotional roller coaster ride that is starting and running a business.
Describe your personal life?
I have a very healthy work/life balance. If I don’t play then my work suffers. :)