Never give up — tempered by the adage “family comes first.”
Daniel Riedel is the CEO of New Context, a systems architecture firm founded to optimize, secure, and scale enterprises. New Context provides systems automation, cloud orchestration, and data assurance through software solutions and consulting.
Daniel has experience in engineering, operations, analytics, and product development. Previously, he founded a variety of ventures that worked with companies such as Disney, AT&T, and the National Science Foundation. He’s no stranger to Silicon Valley after spending time at Yahoo.
Where did the idea for New Context come from?
Having spent the last 20 years in technology, I know that understanding the nature of data is critical for the success of any business. Being able to guarantee the state of data without relying on a third party is revolutionary. After meeting Mike Gault and the Guardtime team, it was obvious that my business partner and I could change the way the world handles data. At that point, we realized that we needed to found a company around this technology and partner with Guardtime and Digital Garage Company to bring the product to market.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I try to keep enough of my day open to give assistance to my team as needed. Keeping this time open affords me the time to respond to issues and participate in brainstorming sessions to stay lean and respond to business opportunities quickly. We are an agile company, even within our business operations, and we’ve structured a daily company standup to make sure there are no obstacles preventing us from making progress each day. We try to keep meetings as short as possible to respect our team’s time. I work with everyone as much as possible: sharing ideas, getting initiatives going, and doing whatever it takes to make our company successful.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I use “The Shower” — it’s something of a joke and somewhat serious. If you’re grinding all day, you have no time for your brain to fully formulate an idea. Ideas need a quiet environment, and they need nurturing. Once they’re formed, they need more people to take them to the next level. Ideas are exponential. If you can involve your team and get them on board, you’re going to build much better products and companies. You also need to bounce ideas off your friends and teams. Additionally, if you’re founding a company, you need to have someone you trust that you can balance those ideas against. My co-founder, Steve Mays, and I constantly share ideas; it will be the key to our success.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Broadly speaking, technology and its effects on humans interests me. More specifically, the Internet of Things (IoT) and its broader implications on life in the next 10 years excite me.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’d say it’s having faith in blind optimism and the hope that each of us can change the world.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I worked as a cashier at a bakery when I was 16. I learned that there has to be a more enjoyable way to make a living. I started my first company two years later.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would do everything the same — just with more gusto and confidence.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never give up — tempered by the adage “family comes first.”
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Be creative, think outside the box, and don’t accept “no” for an answer. Repeat it often, hourly if needed.
Always face your challenges and realize that there’s a solution. When you don’t find a solution, start talking to friends and colleagues and bring in more creativity to solve the situation. You don’t achieve success on your own; your network is what will drive your success, regardless of what business idea you have.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
How about the mile of devastation left behind me, alongside small mounds of success every once in a while? That’s the nature of being an entrepreneur. I think shutting the doors on my first business and starting over was challenging. If you fail, admit it. Try again and always learn. I don’t think about overcoming — I just get excited about the next opportunity.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ll give them all away! I believe in teams, not ideas. But here’s one: a software device that’s able to split up and serve ads based on personality types and media preferences. People consume data in multiple ways. Segmentation based on psychology and learning would dramatically change the way we monetize ad revenue.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I don’t think people realize that I really want everyone to be successful, and I don’t think people know that I am rooting for them to be more successful. I have blind ambition, but it’s only fun if you have friends and family with you.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Google Docs: I finally have my team writing with me. It’s powerful. All of us are on one document at the same time.
Fieldrunners: I have to get my mind off work somehow. Often, blowing stuff up can be very cathartic.
Adobe Photoshop: It works magic.
Quantcast, Alexa, and LinkedIn: Data, data, data: You can know a wide variety of people, understand their metrics and demographics, and use that information to benefit everyone involved.
OmniGraffle: You can make anything a reality here.
PowerPoint: It’s the hazard of business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I haven’t dug through a good book in a while. Currently, with all the news regarding privacy, the most relevant pieces are the classics. If you’re not familiar with author Philip K. Dick, get familiar with his work. The non-fiction world we live in is made up of parts of fiction written decades ago.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
My board (Steve Mays, Joi Ito, Jason Hoffman, Joi Okada, and Kaoru Hayashi): They keep me honest and make sure we never give up. We inspire each other to think critically and take on larger challenges
Steve Mays: My co-founder, and good friend, has taught me to focus on what we can achieve and ignore the rest.
Jon Stewart: How else am I going to learn about the world? Seriously.
Justin Dossey: He taught me to be patient; he also taught me that you can debug anything, given time and logs.
Margaret Cho: She taught me more about business and caring in one evening than I’d learned in a lifetime. There are few people who understand patience and gratitude as well as Margaret.
My father: He helped me explore, learn, and believe in the laws of science. He also showed me the mysteries that unfold in high-energy physics.
Chris Osborn: Has taught me about engineering and software development, as well as how to design games.
Stephen Hawking: He taught me that, no matter what is going on or how bad life seems, a sense of humor can make the world a beautiful place.