We’ve been doing so much, with so little, for so long – that now we can do almost anything with almost nothing.
Jay Shapiro is the Tribal Head of the Humans at Infinite Monkeys, a web-based, self-service platform that enables ordinary people to create extraordinary mobile apps for iOS, Android and HTML 5 devices with no coding required, for free. Jay has been a thought leader in the mobile & digital marketing industry since founding BLUE in 1999. He was the President of the Interactive Advertising Bureau in Singapore for several years, and is a regular speaker at industry events such as Ad:Tech and AppNation.
What are you working on right now?
Transforming Infinite Monkeys from a “startup” into a “business”. The last two years were about building the platform and proving the concept. The next two years will be about scaling that concept from “thousands of customers” to “millions of customers”
Most entrepreneurs (and articles about entrepreneurs) focus on starting businesses, but crossing that chasm to profitable scale is actually a much harder transformation for the organization.
Where did the idea for Infinite Monkeys come from?
Back in 1999, I founded a digital agency called BLUE. I watched the cost of businesses creating a website drop from hundreds of thousands of dollars, to essentially zero – through platforms like WordPress, Drupal and SquareSpace. I could see that the exact same curve was going to happen in Mobile and so we set out to create a platform to create the LongTail of the mobile app economy. The result is our drag-and-drop mobile app builder that empowers anyone to build their own app with zero coding, for free.
It’s one of the best feelings an entrepreneur can have to watch an idea become a product in use by customers in 60+ countries around the world…
How do you make money?
One Dollar at a time, like everyone else.
Infinite Monkeys has three main revenue streams:
1) The apps that we build for free for people including ADVERTISING in various shapes and guises. We keep the revenue earned from those ads.
2) Many publishers opt to pay us FEES for a premium app that is ad-free and/or distributed to a premium app store.
3) A lot of our thousands of apps contain eCommerce elements for the sale of our publishers’ products/content/music, etc. We earn AFFILIATE COMMISSIONS on all those sales.
Combined, each of these contribute a tiny bit of revenue per app per day, but when you multiply that by millions of apps it adds up to a very substantial business.
What does your typical day look like?
Wake up, walk the dog, breakfast with the family, get in the driver’s seat and drive us to the next glacier/beach/village, make a latte, work for a couple of hours, go for a hike/kayak/swim, work for a few more hours, dinner with the family, read a chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my kids, put them to bed, work for another couple of hours, pretend to sleep for a couple of hours.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through constant experimentation. We all have an inherent fear of failure. It’s best into is from a very young age. But I truly believe that failure is a necessary component of optimisation. You can become the best if you’re not trying enough new things/theories to have the majority of them fail.
If every idea you pursue works, then you’re stick to just the safe ideas and you’ll never discover that left-field concept that completely disrupts everything.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Globalization – A lot of people fear the migration of jobs offshore, but I believe that the global collaboration possible with the new ways of working offer the opportunity to bring us all closer together. When all of our futures are intertwined, we’re a lot less likely to hate/fight each other. There will undoubtedly be tough times of adjustment as individuals / families / countries find their place in the new world, but in the end I truly believe that everyone will benefit.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Working the night shift during college as a clerk in the warehouse in a regional distribution center for UPS, in Canada, in the winter, with all the garage doors open so the trucks could drive in and out. I went to school for comp sci from 9-5, and then would put on my parka and cycling gloves to stand at a computer at the end of the conveyor belt from 6 ’till midnight. It was a great learning experience…
1) It taught me what I didn’t want to be doing for the rest of my life.
2) Like the little birds that eat the gnats off the back of an elephant, it taught me that there are all kinds of opportunities for nimble entrepreneurs to make money by solving “small” inefficiencies for massive corporations. I went on to build my entire first major venture on servicing the CRM data needs of Fortune100 companies. We were never more than a tiny fraction of any of their budgets, but it was enough for me to keep almost 200 staff happily employed.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
That depends, who have I come back as?
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Make lists, or even better mind maps. I’m a compulsive mind mapper. One of my best clients Joe Puthuserri turned me on to it years ago. It sounds melodramatic to say, but it changed my life.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Taking too long to act on a decision.
There are thousands of tough choices and duties an entrepreneur has to do. Often we’re too scared, timid, optimistic to pull the trigger. However I’ve found that delaying the decision is usually worse / harder to repair, than taking a quick decisive but wrong action.
There are very few mistakes that can’t be fixed, inaction is one of them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In store navigation app – like a car GPS navigation unit for the grocery store. You enter in your grocery list (mine is in Evernote already) and pick which grocery store you are going to. The app then sorts your list into the correct order so you don’t have to keep walking back and forth in the store.
Like many of the 50+ business ideas I have in my venture file, this one is very practical but not particularly monetizable… which is why I’m happy to give it away.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I’d convince everyone to put the community above the individual. There is too much greater good sacrificed because people are protecting their personal, political, national, religious interests.
There isn’t a problem on earth today that couldn’t be solved today, by us just working together. Someday we’ll get there, I’m convinced of it.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I carry my grandfather’s soapstone in my pocket everywhere I go. Whenever I am having a difficult / frustrating day I subtly reach in, feel it there and am reminded of his big smile and belly laugh that followed him everyday of his life that was significantly harder than mine. It almost always works…
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Evernote – I have outsourced my brain to Evernote, there’s just no need to ever remember anything anymore with Evernote around.
oDesk - No other website on the intranet has the power to transform “work” the way odesk does. 2.5 million contractors who will do ANYTHING that your new business needs, without having to lease, equip and decorate a new office.
Google Apps for business - Because a new entrepreneur could spend a fortune on a mail server, a file server, MS Office licenses, Webex conferencing accounts, GTD Task Management software, etc …or you could pay $50 / yr / employee and be set-up in about 20 minutes.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Lean Startup - Eric Ries – Practical, Instructional, incredibly helpful. (although 80% of the value is available for free at: http://theleanstartup.com
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Andy Carvin – @acarvin - because he perfected the art of curating the most pertinent tweets of every world event as it happens.
Cory Booker – @CoryBooker – because he is going to be the first president of the USA to ever actually actively manage his own Twitter account.
Vivek Wadhwa – @wadhwa – intelligent, articulate, inside – a great view of what’s really going on in silicon valley
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
About 2 minutes ago thinking about how many people are now going to go and lookup: Lucas “Snapper” Carr on Wikipedia. (see below)
Who is your hero, and why?
Lucas “Snapper” Carr – Like so many of us he accidentally stumbled into the company of greats. Just another normal guy he went on to assist in great achievements, and although he made some mistakes that would have shamed most people into a life of reclusive embarrassment the fact is that “Snapper” proved impossible to keep down and he ultimately helped save the world in his own small way.
What one quote best sums up your professional career?
“We’ve been doing so much, with so little, for so long – that now we can do almost anything with almost nothing.”
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
None – Just because a woodchuck could chuck, doesn’t mean a woodchuck should chuck wood. There’s a lesson in that for all of us.
Twitter: @j_shapiro & @oo_monkeys