I love Evernote–I’m definitely a fanatic. It’s on my Mac, my iPhone and my iPad and it helps me organize my thoughts and track down old ideas. Oftentimes I’ll look through my Evernote notebooks and look for emerging patterns. If I notice, for instance, that I’ve clipped 10 cool new infographic tools I’ll start thinking about creating a new post around that subject.
Chris McConnell is an entrepreneur, networker, blogger, public speaker and innovator. Most recently, Chris founded DailyTekk.com, a blog that curates cool and useful technology. DailyTekk is probably best known for it’s top 100 tech series published every Monday which comprehensively summarizes the best tech tools in a given industry or category (while weeding out the junk). Chris is also working on reinventing the concept of philanthropy by making it a viable option for everyday people through a nonprofit he co-founded with his wife. He loves knowing about the next big thing before it’s the next big thing (or creating it himself) and supporting other entrepreneurs and innovators. When something exciting grabs him, Chris McConnell works at it relentlessly.
What are you working on right now?
I’m focused on carving out a unique corner of the online tech space and differentiating DailyTekk by focusing on curation. I don’t want the site to cover everything out there. There are plenty of tech blogs already doing that. What doesn’t make it on the site is just as important to me as what does. I only feature products and services that are either cool or useful (or both). The end result is something that’s pretty exclusive and that works to the site’s advantage because once readers come to expect a certain level of quality from the content then DailyTekk will become a trusted source. I do all the hard work for my readers (the discovery and sorting) so they can explore the best of the best. Right now the top 100 tech series is the rocket fuel that is launching the site but sometime I plan on adding new regular features.
Where did the idea for DailyTekk come from?
DailyTekk started out as a way for me to share cool tech finds and ideas with my coworkers but quickly found a bigger audience around the world. In the beginning I was posting “daily tech finds” which were basically cool gadgets I had run into. The format has evolved over time. I love blogging and discovered this a few years back while running a design blog (now defunct) that started to generate some pretty decent traffic. I always had an itch to start blogging again so the idea to start another blog of some sort has been in the back of my head for awhile now. I learned a lot the first time around so, by the time I started forming the idea for DailyTekk, things progressed pretty quickly. Of course, the url I wanted was taken so on the spur of the moment I registered DailyTekk.com and it couldn’t have worked out better. It’s really memorable.
What does your typical day look like?
Before I head off to my day job I usually check my email and do a bit of social networking and promotion for any posts that I may have scheduled for the day. Around lunch I like to check in on the blog’s stats, comments and the like. As I run into cool services or products throughout the day I save them in Evernote with tags and a short description. Fridays and Sundays are usually my big days for generating and scheduling content. Sometimes I’m driven to work on the blog at night after work (that’s the old entrepreneurial spirit kicking in that makes you want to work till you drop) but I’m usually ready to relax at that point. If not, my wife lets me know when it’s time to quit and I appreciate that and need it. Occasionally I’ll head off to the local bookstore to work for a change of scenery. So, really, as far as DailyTekk is concerned, my workday starts when my regular job ends.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m constantly sketching and writing out ideas on paper or the nearest whiteboard. This probably comes from my background as a graphic and web designer doing mockups and such. My office and home office (and even my bedroom) are usually littered with paper filled with scribblings detailing my latest ideas. More often than I’d like I wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea and can’t go back to sleep until I’ve worked it out of my system somehow (usually by writing it down or typing it out). I love Evernote–I’m definitely a fanatic. It’s on my Mac, my iPhone and my iPad and it helps me organize my thoughts and track down old ideas. Oftentimes I’ll look through my Evernote notebooks and look for emerging patterns. If I notice, for instance, that I’ve clipped 10 cool new infographic tools I’ll start thinking about creating a new post around that subject. I love using the camera on my iPhone to take pictures of interesting things and stash them in Evernote to spark some creativity later on.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m really excited to see some new social networking ideas and products start to emerge such as Path or OurSpot. There needs to be some competition in that space and I’m glad some people are trying to innovate. I’m not a big Facebook fan–I just never really got into it for whatever reason. I really love a lot of the big tech companies like Apple and Google (even Microsoft’s starting to come out with some fresh and innovative stuff) but I just can’t bring myself to use Facebook. I’m glad other people like it but it hasn’t really been for me.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
It was a job working as a low-level designer at a mom and pop ad agency. I wasn’t there long because I think I clashed with their culture. The partners were actually sort of hillbillies in a way and we had different likes, interests and styles. It also paid peanuts. It was the only job I’ve ever been let go from, apparently because they just didn’t have the work to support another designer, but I think I just wasn’t a good fit for them. I did actually learn a few good design techniques while I was there so it wasn’t all for nothing and as much as I didn’t respect the owners, it did show me that just about anyone can start and run a business if they try hard enough. It actually worked out great being let go because I ended up starting my own design company and had a great time doing that for a couple of years until I got hired at a magazine. It was while I was running my own design company that I got into blogging as well!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t change anything because I’m happy where I’m at, but, if you really pressed me for an answer I would say I wish I would’ve had the foresight to have tried being an entrepreneur first and a college student second. I tend to agree with Peter Thiel that we’re in an education bubble and I think it’s the people that think different, that aren’t afraid to shun society’s norms and take risks that end up doing the biggest things. Aside from meeting my wife at college, I’d say college was pretty pointless for me. I keep looking back and wondering what I paid all that money for. It’s not like I went to a prestigious university. Instead I would have loved to have participated in a startup accelerator program like Y Combinator. College is definitely great for certain career paths but, for a certain segment of creative people, pursuing a degree isn’t necessarily the best use of time or money. Look at what Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mark Zuckerberg accomplished without graduating. Where would we be today without people like that? I could go on and on about this subject because I can’t stand regressives who fight progress and prefer tradition over forward thinking.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I like to try new things because I’m not afraid to fail. Failing makes you grow as a person. I’ve started a lot of things and not all of them have been a smashing success. I tried starting my own record label at one point and didn’t make a lot of money, especially for the amount of work I was putting in. The timing was way off–iTunes was disrupting the heck out of the industry’s business model and the more polished direct-to-fan solutions like Topspin Media weren’t quite ready for prime time yet. Even so, I learned a lot about managing and motivating stubborn people, networking and connecting with influencers, making something out of nothing and marketing among other things. Along the way I got to meet some amazing (and famous) people that I had looked up to for a long time. I’m totally glad I got to have that experience and I still use a lot of what I learned then in my day-to-day routine.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Lack of awesome public speaking skills. I could always communicate really well one-on-one or to small groups but it used to be that if you got me in front of a group of more than 5 people I’d start to publicly self-destruct. As an entrepreneur, you really have to hone your ability to share your ideas with others. It’s a key factor. Whether it’s presenting to a board, pitching investors, getting paid to speak at a conference or simply chatting with a group of customers, founders really have to be able to talk to groups. My solution was to start taking as many speaking gigs as I could, forcing myself to try to practice in front of bigger and bigger audiences. The unknown is always scary, but at the same time there’s a bit of a thrill. For some reason it’s so much easier presenting to a group of total strangers than when there’s someone I know in the audience. I’m still not ready for TED, but who knows, maybe someday.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Built-in Christmas lights! I’ve always thought this would be an awesome idea. Who likes getting out on the roof and stringing up the lights every year (or putting them away)? Nobody. I think someone could make a fortune installing built-in x-mas lights that turn on or off with the flip of a switch.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I’d change the way charity works. So many people want to make a difference in the world but don’t have the time or money to make much of a dent all alone. A typical university student, for instance, is so open to social change but they have to study all the time and are loading up with debt. I’m actually working on a way to democratize philanthropy and make it possible for “everyday Joes” to become “everyday heroes” through my nonprofit. Stay tuned for more info on that!
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I’ve got thousands, literally, as you can tell from my blog, so it’s hard to narrow it down to three, but I’ll mention a few that have become staples in my life (since I already mentioned Evernote, I’ll leave it out here, but it’s pretty indispensable). iCloud rocks. I love taking a picture on my phone and having it waiting for me on my iPad to look at and edit later. I know it’s nothing new at this point but I also love Flipboard because it provides an awesome reading experience. Other companies keep trying to reinvent the feed reader but I don’t think anyone has topped them yet. I love their excellent recommendations and the fact that my account syncs between all of my iOS devices. Quora has slowly been working its way into my everyday routine. I enjoy reading the local questions and answers and it’s a great place to ask questions and do research for upcoming posts.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would have to say REWORK by Jason Fried. It’s so easy to read and it’s super insightful. Compared to Jason, hardly anyone who writes about business actually thinks outside the box. Page after page he delivers actual insights that make you think wow.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
I would say Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) because he’s always on the cutting edge and doing/sharing interesting things, Kevin Rose (@kevinrose) because he shares some interesting insights (including photos) into the life of a successful tech entrepreneur turned angel investor and finally Noland Hoshino (@nolandhoshino) for someone you may not be familiar with–he tweets excellent content about tech, social media and social good.
Who is your hero?
A hero is Steve Jobs. He wasn’t perfect, but I respect his journey.