I would have made the leap earlier. There is a great deal of stress and worry in starting your own business, as many of your readers will know. However, it won’t kill you. Much can be done with determination, vision, and a little help from your friends.
Brent is Co-Founder and CEO of FlameWave, a start-up specialising in consumer focused retail apps with the goal of bringing consumers and retailers closer together and providing value to both. Brent reached this point through a career in software development, management consulting, project management, and culminating in product management. This broad experience has provided Brent with insight into organisations and market opportunities in today’s technology laden world.
FlameWave will be a year old in December 2012 and Brent has learnt many lessons along that journey, perhaps more than in the preceding years. Brent has managed to find his team, keep them together (mostly), and launch the first product in that time. Brent believes you can never really understand how fast a year can go by until you are working on a start-up.
Brent cut his teeth in retail when his parents used him as child labour in their surf shop and ice cream store, at the tender age of 12. Seriously, doesn’t every person wish they had that childhood? It was here he learnt the exhilaration of the sale and the outright hard work retail can be. Brent sees a fantastic future for retail, Bricks & Mortar (B&M) and on-line, where we will spend less time searching and more time enjoying the things we find or find us.
Personally, culture vulture describes Brent down to his boots, which he uses to travel as much as he can and photograph as much as he sees. He will use any excuse to travel and drag his wife Ann-Marie and kids with him, under the excuse it will “expand their horizons”. Brent has seen a small chunk of the world across a number of countries and still continues to marvel at our differences and similarities.
What are you working on right now?
wRapt! the personal gift registry in your pocket. wRapt! is the best way for you to share the gifts you really want with family and friends. wRapt! provides you with the ability to snap, tag, and share your ideal gifts, straight from your phone. More than just ensuring you receive the gifts you desire, wRapt makes it easy for you to discover and find the gifts your friends and family will love, because Gifting is Social.
Where did the idea for FlameWave come from?
There were a number of sources which came together to spark the inspiration. For years I wanted a way to track all of the gifts that I had given and was given by family and friends. Add in a series of really poor gifts given to me and I was primed to solve this problem. The final spark came from a book, Scroogenomics by Joel Waldfogel, and I was away looking for a team and pulling together features.
The book, though sounding Grinchy, is actually quite a good one on the waste that happens at Christmas due to all of the bad gifts bought and not used. This became my inspiration to solve the problem of bad gifts.
How do you make money?
wRapt! is free to download and use from the consumers perspective. However retailers will, in the near future, be able to sign-on to the platform and make offers to consumers on the products they are interested in. This way consumers are saved time, effort, and angst, whilst retailers are provided with a better understanding of and avenue to their consumers.
What does your typical day look like?
To keep things running for FlameWave and at home I also work a full-time role. My typical day then tends to run like this:
1. Up and ready to head off to the full-time role, if there is spare time I’m into the communications and preparations for other things later in the day.
2. Off to the full-time role
3. Back home, which at that time of day means:
4. Helping with the kids if they need it, baths, homework, projects, etc.
5. Dinner and what is going on in everyone’s day
6. Rest, perhaps reading or TV
7. Reading to the kids and shuffling them off to bed, about 8pm
8. This surprisingly leaves about 3 – 4 hours to focus on wRapt! which can vary from communications externally and with the rest of the team, through to requirements, design, and testing.
9. Weekends are different where I’ll focus on broader elements such as, business model, marketing, product testing (I have been known to approach random people in shopping malls), and if I’m very lucky, I make it to the beach.
How do you bring ideas to life?
A team. I put considerable effort into identifying the right team and choosing the right vendors. The core FlameWave team has been fantastic, bringing together design, technology, marketing & comms, and legal & commercials. In extreme cases I can pull together a web-site and the necessary resources for the site. I also beg, plead, and borrow from friends and family where I can. I have been very lucky in having friends and family who have provided; logos, business cards, and photo & video production. Thank you to all of them.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Mobile / localisation. We have seen over the last couple of years, apps and technology which provide a great deal of value to consumers in finding things close to them. This trend is set to continue as we integrate mobile technology into our lives. Google and Microsoft are both pursuing glasses style devices which will provide even more real time information about the world around us.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Dish pig. This is the wonderfully colloquial name given to the person responsible for washing all the dishes, pots, pans, etc. in a commercial kitchen. As a young man I worked in restaurants in this role during high school and university.
I learnt from this, even when you have a hard, unpleasant job the people you work with can really make the difference. I still look back at that time with fondness for the people I worked for and with. A big part of their approach was work hard with focus and play hard. A good dash of humour also goes a long way.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have made the leap earlier. There is a great deal of stress and worry in starting your own business, as many of your readers will know. However, it won’t kill you. Much can be done with determination, vision, and a little help from your friends. My ideas previously had a market but the risk I envisaged was to my family and our future. Bollocks, I am much happier now making this dream happen and that can be seen in my family who thrive. I have also had some of the best conversations with my son, that I wouldn’t have had if I had not taken the plunge.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Thank the people who help you. I try to keep this constantly in mind; be grateful for those who have helped you. This ranges from those who have done you favours through to that first user / customer, who has taken a punt on you and your service. Be thankful to all your customers / users they are the reason you product exists in the first place.
You will find that being grateful returns in spades. An example from my own life being a person introduced me to a key retailer some time ago and even though the introduction didn’t work out I showed my gratitude. Subsequently the same person who I now consider a friend has continued to introduce me to people. Be grateful.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Timing. Life like good comedy is about timing. I will also continue to work on this. I knew coming into development of wRapt! that timing for Christmas would be critical. Although we made launch for December we could have been earlier and taken a better ramp up. Timing also applies to developing your relationships, especially with retailers who can start preparing for the Christmas campaigns as early as March.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I desperately want someone to offer greening in corporate spaces; inside and outside building. I don’t mean tokenistic plants in office spaces. Find a way to make these spaces more productive around, on top of and even the sides of buildings that add to the aesthetics yet are easy to maintain and I’m there. There are some wonderful self-containment units for plants these days that could be modified for buildings.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Move the planet over to a sustainable power foundation. Regardless of your beliefs on global warming; who wants to live in smoggy, dirty, poisoned cities. It will give us all a chance to clear the air. This relates to my answer in the last question, the more solutions we can provide to help us improve our cities, the better off we will be. There are problems to be solved here, however there are many trying to solve this exact problem.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I meditate. Unfortunately not regularly in a sit down and do nothing else way. However, I do find quick moments throughout the day where I take the time to push everything else out of my mind. I am practiced enough now that I can achieve this quite quickly and be painting my meditation space around me. This aids with focus and stress particularly.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Facebook is my number one. As a business owner I obsess about facebook. Not just the social part of the site that most of the billion users focus on but also the developer, advertising, and analytical sides of the platform.
Twitter is a very close second. Twitter has been the source of some great information and contacts in my year as an entrepreneur. I have often been led to some great insight through twitter posts that I would not have come across previously. It has become my ticker tape for the modern world informing me on technology, trends, partners, customers, and the competition. You are doing yourself a disservice if you are not using Twitter.
Github has become the core of what we do for wRapt! it has become the way for developing, deploying, and tracking the application. Furthermore Github supplies the team with collaborative tools to work together, identify and track issues, and manage development.
There are many more, however I will leave it at those three.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The End of Business As Usual,” by Brian Solis is a fantastic book for all entrepreneurs. Regardless of whether your business is built on the world’s social fabric or you are manufacturing widgets, Brian contextualises why understanding the trends of social, local, and mobile. He goes into great detail in this book with some great examples of where organisations have performed well and where they have performed poorly.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
As an entrepreneur in the technology space I tend to skew towards technology and start-ups:
1. Chris Dixon – Provides plenty of links and insight into the latest trends and how to use technology to your advantage. He is a founder and investor with years of experience which come through.
2. Josh Clark – An author of another good book, if you are writing apps. Josh also points out great material and provides insight into the world of User eXperience (UX) design.
3. Mark Suster – A 2 times entrepreneur now Venture Capitalist who also writes an excellent blog called “Both Sides of the Table” as the name confers Mark gives a point of view as an entrepreneur and a VC which has been helpful guidance this year.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Tonight actually, the report card for my eldest son caused me to chuckle. His teacher has a wicked sense of humour and whilst praising my son greatly for his science work managed to fit in a joke about anatomy. The joke was so well placed and contextual I almost spat out my tea.
Who is your hero, and why?
Richard Branson. The respect I have for this man in taking brave leaps in business is large. Branson has managed to disrupt a number of established industries and markets over time and do so with such humour and good natured disposition. It is obvious he is driven, however he also gives back through humanitarian causes and particularly in setting up programs for and supports entrepreneurs.
Given the opportunity which of your roles would you hand over to someone first and why?
For me this is marketing. It is such an important role, important to get right, that I would like someone with dedicated skills in the space. It is unfortunately under-rated in many organisations that don’t appreciate the scientific nature of the role where you have to experiment, measure, and refine almost every message. I am lucky in this regard to now have great support in the role.
How do you support the entrepreneurial community?
I try to involve myself where time allows in entrepreneur events, particularly with TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs). I volunteer my time and recently helped organise TiECON – Sydney. I’m also happy to share my experiences as entrepreneur and from corporate life with other entrepreneurs.