My goal is to squeeze a 25-hour day out of 12 hours of work, six days a week.
Ziver Birg, also known as ‘”Mr. Kiosk,” according to Inc. Magazine, is a self-taught serial entrepreneur who has dedicated 12+ years to founding companies within the self-service technology industry. Ziver is well-known as the founder and CEO of ZIVELO™, the industry-leading kiosk and digital signage brand. He is also an active member of the Young Entrepreneurs Council, a NPO dedicated to entrepreneurship education and mentorship, and he’s a partner of GenY Venture Partners, an early-stage investment firm that focuses on tech startup incubation. Ziver was recognized at the White House as an Empact100 honoree in 2011 and 2012, adding his name to their list of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 30 two years in a row. In 2012, he was also inducted to Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30 List” of top young entrepreneurs and recognized by Forbes as a “Top Ten Job-Creating Young Entrepreneur.” Follow Ziver on Twitter @ZiverBirg.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently focusing on working with the ZIVELO R&D lab to expand our product offerings, with the business development group to expand our partnership programs, and with the marketing group to keep increasing ZIVELO’s global presence.
Where did the idea for ZIVELO come from?
I started in the self-service technology space 12 years ago, while working with my brother as we created pay-per-use Internet access stations (like pay phones for the Internet). It eventually morphed into a reseller model, where we were reselling the products of kiosk manufacturers by creating the first website that offered pricing online. About seven years ago, we launched our own product line, which trumped the manufacturers’ products — and so ZIVELO was born. ZIVELO is the compilation of the positive aspects of five different kiosk manufacturers. We improve upon the service and product with each iteration.
What does your typical day look like?
My goal is to squeeze a 25-hour day out of 12 hours of work, six days a week. I usually start the day by checking CNN and the BBC to see what’s going on in the world. Then, I plan out the day and get started. My typical day is comprised of responding to roughly 100 emails, making about 20 or so phone calls a day, and attending three to four meetings.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I analyze existing technology and think about the element of simplicity, crossed with what the world wants. Many times, I come up with ideas while listing to music that inspires me, or I wake up with a great idea and note it on my smartphone. These ideas are brought to life by the amazing team I’ve surrounded myself with. It’s great to be able to throw out an idea, have the ZIVELO creative studio conceptualize it, and then have others drive it to completion. If the idea is not a tangible product, such as a process improvement, I usually pull together the appropriate team and go through a brainstorming session. Once the session is over, our COO, CFO, chief operating architect, marketing director, or my executive assistant sees the idea through to completion.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The extension of personal computing and self-service technology is a growing field. Not only do people need a computer at home and a smartphone in their pocket, but people also want a readily accessible computer while out and about. Public computing is becoming an integral part of our society.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
All of my jobs have been rewarding, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be working for my dad. It was also my first job. At the age of 7, I had to sweep wastepaper in a boutique printing press in Berkeley, Calif. I was getting paid $2.25 an hour. I wasn’t too terribly excited about it at the time, but eventually, I saw the value in waking up early, working hard, and having consistency.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
It would be tough to mention just one. Here are my four recommendations:
Communication: To effectively communicate anything, you need to listen, acknowledge, explore, and then react. People will always respond well to someone who is cognitively engaged in the conversation.
Get things done: To move quickly, shoot for 90-percent completion, instead of always striving for perfection. The remaining 10 percent usually takes the same amount of time as getting the 90 percent done. Once things are in place, the goal of getting closer to 100 percent will happen over time. The key is to act, pause, reflect, and then adjust. Repeat this process over and over.
Process: Always set protocols early, and establish gold standards for all processes to ensure your colleagues are well aware of these standards. This will translate into effective communication and consistent and clear expectations. You will save yourself from headaches if you identify how you want things to flow and if you train people on this the first time. People need definitions in order to meet your expectations. Always define this formally.
Simplicity: Simplicity always prevails. If you’re ever unsure, put yourself in the shoes of the person or audience you are trying to effectively communicate with. Make sure your product or service is simple to understand. Simplicity, well, it simply always wins.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
How about a service for retail stores and restaurants that offers free Internet access in exchange for “likes” on Facebook?
Tell us a secret.
Here are two:
• Always wake up before the sun rises. You will be twice as productive that day, I promise.
• Follow trends, merge ideas, add value, and create a niche!
What are your three favorite online tools, and what do you love about them?
Skype: It brings the world into your office. I am currently in Istanbul, but I had four calls with sales reps in Denver, one call with the sales team in Los Angeles, and three calls with the operations department in Indiana — not your typical vacation, but I am catching up from three days of being radio silent. You know how they say 80 percent of communication is nonverbal? Well, with video calling, you won’t miss four-fifths of the conversation.
Pandora: Music inspires me. Creating my own station that merges my favorite artists into one constant stream is amazing. I know there are other Internet music services out there, but I tend to stick with what works. Another pointer here: create something extraordinary, and if it truly is, people will naturally gravitate toward it. I might have to check out Spotify soon. A lot of my friends, including Spotify’s founder at an Inc. 30under30 event in New York, have personally recommended I try it.
Basecamp: Utilizing the cloud to define projects, invite team members, and see the project through is always useful.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is a great book that offers examples of being an effective leader in life. It also offers a great understanding of what to watch for if someone is trying to get the best of you.
What’s on your playlist?
Lenka, Lily Allen, Gem, Meiko, Benny Benassi, Florence + the Machine, and The Prodigy are just a few artists on my favorite playlist.
If you weren’t working on ZIVELO, what would you be doing?
My childhood teachers always told me I should be an attorney. They said I could debate anything to get what I wanted. I might have been in the medical technology field, as I have always had an affinity for biology and nano-technology. Day trading or international trade is interesting, as I’ve always loved predicting trends and filling voids. I could also see myself as a car designer, as I haven’t met many people who can point out the flaws in a Porsche, Lamborghini, or Ferrari (although they have all recently started to hit the perfection mark).
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
The last time I laughed out loud was when my niece, Mary, came into my aunt’s house with a snowball and hit my cousin smack in the face with it. It’s not often you see someone eat snow unwillingly. Good thing it wasn’t the yellow kind! It was hilarious.
Who is your hero?
My dad is my hero. He came to the States on a valedictorian scholarship, created something from nothing, and has been hard-working all his life. Now, all of his efforts are focused on the true human element – giving back.
Tell me about a time you failed and what did you learn?
I received a four-million-dollar investment in exchange for 15 percent of a company I was running with my brother, but I left about six months into the investment. The company became insolvent one month after I left (for reasons outside my brother’s control). I learned that it’s always better to keep family out of business, as it’s very difficult to not bring work home. Some things just need to be separated.
What would you have done differently in your personal life?
I wish I had stayed in school. I gave up a lot of social activities early on to get ahead in life, and nobody could convince me otherwise at the time. I am lucky to have a great group of friends who understand my drive and focus. Now I want to go back to school, but I have an ongoing internal debate with myself; I feel like I can learn almost anything I set my mind to. Sometimes, the structure is important, so I might go back to the classroom eventually.