Eli Portnoy – Founder and CEO of ThinkNear

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I visualize it and I try to figure out all of the components we need to make it a reality and then I start working on each one.  I value speed above all else, because you don’t know what you don’t know until you try it, and I’d rather get it wrong and correct myself than never get anything done. 

Eli Portnoy is the CEO of ThinkNear and is responsible for the overall health of the business and making sure the company reaches its full potential.

Eli was most recently a Product Manager at Amazon where he helped develop, market, and grow the Amazon Video On-Demand service. Previously he was a successful entrepreneur selling an automated telephone based recruitment platform to local merchants and was named one of the “Top Young Entrepreneurs” by BusinessWeek, the “21st Coolest Young Entrepreneur” by Inc. magazine, and a “Top Entrepreneur Under 30″ by NY Daily News.

Eli earned a BA in International Relations and Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

What are you working on right now?

Recruiting is my number one priority right now. What we are building is massively difficult and we need to find the absolute best folks from around the country to help us solve some really big challenges for local businesses. That means coffees in the morning, scouring LinkedIn, networking events, pumping my network for referrals. On the one hand the problems we’re working on are incredibly challenging and interesting, and we’ve already got a top notch team, so we have a lot of interest. On the other hand, we want only the best and so we’re taking our time to find the right people.

What does your typical day look like?

I wake up about 5:30am to do a bit of email and figure out what the day will look like. I then take my kids to school and head to the office. Most days I meet with or speak with our customers, spend some time working on partnerships and deals, and working with our engineering team to fine-tune our product. My days are way too meeting heavy and I am trying to cut back down, but usually there are at least 5 of them throughout the day. Around 6:30 I head home to put my kids to bed and spend a bit of time with them and I am back in the office at 7:30 to finish everything I couldn’t do during the day. On good days I am back home by 10pm, but usually it’s about 11 before I make it back. Oh, and at least half an hour of Halo per day. Helps us blow off steam and keeps up morale.

3 trends that excite you?

Mobile is an absolutely massive trend. Everything changes when you have a decision making device with you 24/7.

Data is changing the world. What only a few companies could do 10 years ago anyone can do now. Bringing sophistication and analytics to every corner of the globe will make us a much more productive and efficient society.

Local. The internet shortened distances and made interactions across the globe possible, but ultimately we live in a world where location still matters and we are finally seeing this converge with the power of the internet.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I visualize it and I try to figure out all of the components we need to make it a reality and then I start working on each one.  I value speed above all else, because you don’t know what you don’t know until you try it, and I’d rather get it wrong and correct myself than never get anything done. When it comes actually bringing an idea to life, I put a lot of trust in our engineers to run with it.

What inspires you?

My family. It’s why I get up every morning and why I work as hard as I do.

What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?

There are so many mistakes, but that’s a good thing because what we are trying to do is completely different and never been done before. If we had all the answers or got everything right the first time it would be too easy for anyone else to do it.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Organizing my photos, backing them up, and sharing them is such a pain currently. One idea I’d love for someone to build is a camera app that automatically uploads my pictures to dropbox, lets me name them by with voice recognition, and categorize them by date, time, and location.

Connect:

Eli Portnoy’s Blog: http://eportnoy.posterous.com/
Eli Portnoy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/eportnoy

Published on August 23, 2011 .

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