Anthony Erwin – Founder and CEO of StreetSpark

Anthony Erwin founded StreetSpark in December 2009 and is the head of Product Management, Marketing and the overall strategy for StreetSpark in the U.S. and the UK. StreetSpark was recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the 100 Brilliant Companies for 2011.

Prior to StreetSpark, Mr. Erwin was the Founder and Director of Quarantine Productions Ltd., a UK-based production company launched in April 2006, specializing in online marketing, video, graphics and viral campaigns. Clients included Unilever, Tia Maria, Lucozade and NHS.

In February 2005, Mr. Erwin was Head Project Manager for Westminster City Council’s new online E-Procurement system, where he led the development team in building the system, including e-auctions, online billing, e-invoicing, and full online purchasing.

Before that, in October 2003, Mr. Erwin served as Head Project / Product Manager for Big Brother Channel 4 Interactive. Here, he was responsible for the creation and delivery of new Big Brother Interactive TV applications, including live voting, and coordinated and managed technical back-end teams.

In September 2001, Mr. Erwin served as the Interactive Portal and Applications Manager for NTL: Interactive, where he was head of the e-commerce project team and developed applications for digital TV, PC and mobile platforms.

Mr. Erwin has earned a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration and a Bachelor of Law, both from Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, and a Diploma of Filmmaking from Metropolitan Film School in London. He currently lives in New York City with his wife.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on other arenas where StreetSpark’s proprietary social matching technology can be used to help people find who and what they are looking for. There are many potential use cases besides just meeting new friends, or meeting people for dating, and that is what I am currently looking into.

What does your typical day look like?

Every day is different. I spend a lot of time meeting and talking with people.

I meet with potential companies and individuals who are interested in forming partnerships.

I tap into my friends, advisors and new people to get their views and test my ideas and see how we can collaborate to come up with more uses for StreetSpark’s matching technology.

I’m in constant communication with my chief architect, designers, and development team to think about how we can streamline the product and make it even better, add in extra features and hooks to keep users interested and excited so they share their experiences with friends.

What I like so much about working in NYC is that people are really willing to help each other out, or to pass on intro’s where they can. I try to meet with everyone that has been intro’d to me and do my best to help other people get their idea off the ground.

3 trends that excite you?

  • The next stage of social networking – meeting new people.
  • Location based mobile technology.
  • Bringing the online offline – being able to connect people for a real purpose in the real world using technology.

How do you bring ideas to life?

With a lot of thinking through the potential and the opportunities and then if it’s good enough –  testing, reworking, revising, testing again and then putting it into play…so in a nutshell, with a lot of hard work!

I believe we’re in a new renaissance period in technology where ideas are flying around ever faster with a shorter incubation period so it pays to pay attention, to be tapped into what other people are doing, to collaborate, to help act as a conduit so that ideas can progress at an even faster rate.

What inspires you?

People who are true entrepreneurs – are true risk takers. Products that actually solve problems, that make me think – ‘hey, why didn’t I ever think of that?’.

Also great thinkers who were ahead of their time, who everyone thought were nuts, but in the end, they didn’t need to prove themselves – their products did.

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

StreetSpark was too complicated in the first version, slowing it down. We’ve really pulled it back in Version 2.0 and simplified it. Completely. Simplicity is key.

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

I think it would be great if there was an app that could tell you what you physically needed more or less of in your life – I don’t know if I would follow it’s advice, but it would definitely make me think, at least for a second, when I order another beer!

What do you read every day, and why?

I read a lot of blogs, and try to get my daily fix of information from a number of sources (online and off). It’s important to know about people who are also creating and developing in your space. I think it’s important to listen to what the opinion formers say but also not to get too bogged down in it all. To listen to fresh perspectives too.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

I would suggest that every entrepreneur reads ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ by Robert M. Pirsig. It gives you an idea of quality and care in the process that goes into these things and making a product using craftsmanship and how it all fits together.

What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?

I couldn’t live without my iPhone.

Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?

I actually don’t know. Not very helpful, but I always change who I listen to, it’s like a ‘flavor of the day’ thing. I think it helps to listen to different views and fresh minds/thinking, as much as the experts.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Einstein, but for obvious reasons, I don’t think it will happen. Sorry guys.

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.

Life is amusing. I laugh all the time. I especially try to laugh at myself because I’ve found that it helps relieve the stress that typically comes from being an entrepreneur.

Actually, New Yorkers are always a good laugh.

Professionally, what would you like to be doing in 5 years time?

Of course, the backdrop will have changed so much by then, especially in this field. I hope I am still applying technology to facilitate serendipity. Really cool to think that some of the ideas I’ve had only a few years ago may not need to wait a few more years before they can actually be realized.

Why Serendipity? What fascinates you/drives you about Serendipity?

The idea for StreetSpark itself came, like most good ones do, from attempting to solve a very real world problem. I’ve always been grappling with the concept that people want to connect with each other on a deeper level – intrigued that if they could only retrace their steps with eyes wide open, they would uncover a pattern – see where their paths have crossed before, and find that they were leading parallel lives without even knowing it.


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