Anthony Nicalo - CEO of Dónde

[quote style=”boxed”]Get a clear yes or no, and ask for an explanation. People are often scared to commit or simply don’t want to hurt your feelings. As an entrepreneur, there is so much gray area that I try to get clarity where I can. Actually, I have some room for improvement on asking for a reason when I get a yes.[/quote]

Anthony Nicalo is the CEO of Dónde, a tool for marketers that drives retail sales by connecting mobile users looking to buy with retail locations through contextual ads, coupons, and other offers. Anthony is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for nonprofits; he is also a professional chef. Anthony is a thought leader in digital marketing and an expert in omnichannel commerce; he can be reached on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Where did the idea for Dónde come from?

Dónde started as a side/consulting project inside of a food tech startup called Foodtree. We were building an app for Certified Humane to make it easy for people to find Certified Humane foods at grocers and restaurants. We received a request for something similar and decided to follow our customers down this path.

What is Dónde’s business model?

Dónde currently operates with a SaaS model that scales based upon visits and functionality, especially around data management and analytics. As a tool that drives mobile conversions to retail stores, we are also exploring some transactional advertising models.

What does your typical day look like?

My day consists of speaking with current and potential customers, making sure we have enough cash in the bank for growth (fundraising and/or building relationships with future investors), product testing and demos, marketing, and usually a side of operations, including HR, legal, and accounting.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Persistence is the key. Everyone has great ideas. Many people probably even have the exact same great idea that you do. Having the courage to fail and the fortitude to try different approaches, to be willing to be told no and happily run into walls, is what separates people with ideas from those who actually create things. Push hard enough that you make mistakes, learn from them, and keep going. If you are completely out of energy to pursue the idea, determine whether you just need a quick break or it’s time to move on.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

“Omnichannel commerce” is exciting. The future of commerce will not be defined by any particular channel. The future of commerce is not e-commerce, mobile, tablet, social, or online-to-offline. The defining characteristic of the next 100 years of commerce will be how impossible it is to put commerce in nice, neat silos.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve never had a “worst” job. I’ve bailed hay, worked as a landscaper, worked in retail, been a professional chef, helped make wine, remodeled houses, done marketing, been an entrepreneur, and served as a tech CEO. Sometimes, I miss the work that’s physically exhausting as well as mentally challenging. The only jobs I don’t like are ones where there isn’t enough to do. Just send me home if there isn’t enough work, please.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’d learn to program. Whether used to create a site for a restaurant or build the first version of an application for a tech startup, solid programming ability is a great advantage.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Get a clear yes or no, and ask for an explanation. People are often scared to commit or simply don’t want to hurt your feelings. As an entrepreneur, there is so much gray area that I try to get clarity where I can. Actually, I have some room for improvement on asking for a reason when I get a yes.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I make just enough of a product to start to talk to customers and then listen to them. I’ve heard that premature scaling is the number-one cause of death for startups, and that has definitely been my experience as an entrepreneur. Building slowly until you are certain you’re solving a real problem for customers — and working to understand them along the way — has been the only way I’ve seen even a modicum of real success.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I started a chef coat business right around the time chefs stopped wearing coats and predominantly began wearing shirts that were previously only worn by the dish staff. I also made too much inventory, didn’t validate the design with customers, and was stubborn about the natural color, instead of bleaching them white. I had a lifetime supply of chef coats in my house for a couple of years. I was finally able to pass them along to a fellow entrepreneur starting a healthy cooking school at a great price — for her. The only way to “overcome” failure is by avoiding making those same mistakes.

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

A great idea is a mobile application for soccer news, translated into at least half a dozen languages, with the ability to follow specific teams, players, etc. It would provide alerts about scores, transfers, and results I’ve indicated an interest in. It would be kind of an international Circa, but for soccer. If someone is already executing this well, please let me know. I’m a definite user and a likely evangelist and investor!

Tell us something about you that very few people know.

I spent a summer working at a Banana Republic in a mall in Ann Arbor, Mich.

What are your three favorite online tools, software or resources and what do you love about them?

http://www.forentrepreneurs.com/: This is essential reading for SaaS companies.

FaceTime: I travel a lot, and being able to see my family every day is important.

Instapaper and Quibb: Both help me stay on top of things I want to read. Without them, I’d have hundreds of browser tabs open (instead of dozens).

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

I’d recommend “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” by Michael Chabon. It’s got great writing, an intriguing story, and some great business lessons, all in an awesome fiction book.

List three experts who have helped you as an entrepreneur and why?

I’d need to write a long story, possibly even a book, about how much Matt, Lane, and Boris have helped me as an entrepreneur. From encouragement and consolation to valuable intros, insights, and hard questions, they’ve each been brilliant counsel on my journey.

Matt Galligan – @mg, http://mgalligan.com/
Lane Becker – @monstro
Boris Mann – @bmann, http://blog.bmannconsulting.com/

What did you have for breakfast today?

I’m in Houston for meetings, so I had a barbacoa taco.

Please list how readers can connect with you:

http://donde.io/
http://www.nicalo.me/
Anthony on Twitter: @tonynicalo
Anthony on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nicalo
Dónde on Twitter: @d0nde
Dónde on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/d0nde
Dónde on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/donde