When you have an idea or a concept, the way I always approach it is to zoom out and take the problem or thing you’re trying to solve and break it down into its core necessities.
Avi Horowitz, a futurist, serial entrepreneur, grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley, surrounded by burgeoning technology. As a result, Avi has always been infatuated with technologies that he believes can and will affect all different facets of our lives, including virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and autonomous vehicles.
Immediately out of highschool, Avi Horowitz was selected to be part of the esteemed Washington Mentorship Program through American University. He worked as an Innovation Specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration in the Office of Investment and Innovation. At the young age of 17, as the right-hand to the Chief Technologist of the Small Business Administration, Avi worked alongside giant players whose job it was to bridge the gap between the Silicon Valley and government in D.C.
Following his internship in D.C., Avi returned to Brandeis University, double majoring in business and political science. He became infatuated with using school as an opportunity to learn about things he was interested in rather than sticking to the curriculum. During his sophomore year, Avi Horowitz was introduced to a new company in the frontier technology space in San Francisco, California. After a summer internship with the startup, Avi chose to leave school and focus on this venture, which he believed would be an amazing opportunity in the frontier tech space.
It is estimated that more than 50% of startups fail within their first four years in business, and Avi’s company was a part of this unfortunate statistic. The business faced some internal and external issues, which the new founders were ill-equipped to manage in the best interests of the company. After a serious car accident, Avi Horowitz, who acted as chief of staff and an officer of the board, decided it was time to move on and pursue his next venture, which was the birth of Marco Polo LLC, a social travel platform that is currently in “stealth mode.”
Avi also holds other entrepreneurial titles, as Managing Director and owner of @MadewithARKit, a social media influencer for showcasing mobile augmented reality, and also is a Co-Founder and Board Member of Shopping for a Change, a nonprofit global marketplace for fair trade products made by artisans in disadvantaged areas around the world.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Shopping for a Change was my mother’s brainchild following a family vacation to Ecuador and Peru in 2008. During our vacation, my mother saw incredible artisans selling gorgeous handmade items that would do well in a western market, but are often ripped off as imitations. These artisans rely on selling these items to support their families, but are often unable to make even a living wage. My mother came back from the vacation with a sense of guilt and wanted to create an online marketplace where artisans could sell their pieces. When my mom and I were brainstorming about what Shopping for a Change would eventually become, it was a very enticing concept to me. Socially mindful entrepreneurship is a strong thing that has been ingrained in my life at a young age, doing things with an entrepreneurship mindset and business-wise with a social conscious about it. I am passionate about leveraging technologies in different ways, leveraging what’s become ubiquitous, like Amazon, with creating an online shopping network and an online global marketplace. Using technologies to reach all the way down and creating pipelines into rural South America and Africa to give impoverished people a place on the global stage to advertise and compete in a global marketplace. Providing access that technology empowers is a powerful thing.
For @MadewithARkit, because of how early the virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and XR industries really are, creating a platform to show their capabilities and what they can do in the future is powerful. As we’ve seen with the birth and maturity of so many other technologies, a lot of the greatest examples of the potential of these technologies come from the grassroots: the indie developers playing with these technologies and playing with their potential. A Twitter social handle like @MadeforARkit is really just meant to be an exposé of the coolest and most unique ways of leveraging this technology, mostly from indie developers playing with these things in their garage, or these one to two-person teams pushing the limits with these technologies and where theoretically they could go.
My Co-Founder and I are excited to unleash Marco in the coming months.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
With what I’m doing with Marco, my days involve getting up very early for calls with my developers and designing team in Europe since we’re working several hours apart. That’s a unique thing in a way, I need to form my days to be most productive. Getting up early, taking my dog on a walk and coffee run to get more energized for the day. I always try to get the biggest and most daunting and cumbersome tasks out of the way first thing in the morning, which allows me to complete the other easier and more menial tasks afterwards. If you leave the bigger stuff and push it off until you complete the smaller items, it’s always going to be hanging over your head and you’re going to be procrastinating on pushing it out. I always find it best to get the bigger tasks done first so that you can then focus and cross everything else off your list more easily in the day afterwards.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When you have an idea or a concept, the way I always approach it is to zoom out and take the problem or thing you’re trying to solve and break it down into its core necessities. Try to gain perspective on the underlying desire and then figure out what different channels and methods and resources you might have to leverage any of those specific points. If you’re able to break a problem down and gain perspective on it, you’ll be able to figure out, take account of what resources you have to leverage, and how you can piecemeal a problem together to solve it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
It’s really interesting how much social media is fueling the travel industry. I read a statistic recently that 87% of millennials look to Facebook/Instagram for travel inspiration and 20% look to Twitter and Pinterest. Millennials are the generation by far that are travelling the most right now, and millennials take an average of 5.6 trips per year in contrast to 3.5 by boomers, so close to double. Millennials are travelling more than any other generation and they really look to social media to influence their travels. 97% of them are logging into social platforms to share photos when they are actively travelling. So social media has a huge impact on the travel industry.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Whiteboards and sticky notes. As much of a technology person as I am, I have pads of sticky notes in every area of my house, even in the bathroom. Post-It advertised that there’s almost double the chance that you’ll complete a task if you physically write it down with pen and paper. I’m a big believer in that and I definitely get all my stuff done by actually writing down any task or idea on a sticky note. When I’m doing brainstorms and conceptualizing ideas, I love whiteboarding. I have a whiteboard hanging on my wall beside my bed and I have one out in my living room as well. They’re for doing “brain dumps”, completely fleshing out and conceptualizing any idea I want to unpack.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t mean don’t get hung up on the details, because I think that some of the most important things are getting into the details. This is a skill I’ve developed more recently, but I wish I had when i was younger, is the ability to be solutions-oriented and be able to pivot quickly where necessary and not get hung up on a roadblock you may not be able to control.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
In 10 years, our personal devices will be glasses on our faces, not rectangles in our pockets.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Getting user feedback on things. I go out and talk to my friends and close confidants all the time to talk about stuff I’m doing with Marco and different ideas and sketches and user interactions. A lot of entrepreneurs and businesses fail because they get too fixated on their version of their idea and that they know best with what they want to produce and how people will use it. That may be true to an extent, but you can’t overlook what the actual users have to say. Even if you disagree with feedback, getting user feedback from the people you expect to use your service is important. It’s important to constantly step outside of your bubble that entrepreneurs will often find themselves in. While that sounds natural and something people would do, you’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs do so little user feedback and neglect advice from people they’re creating the product for. They will more often than not fail because of it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Influencers. Getting social media and large influencers to give testimonials or buy-in and be ambassadors for products or services obviously just adds rocket fuel to whatever you’re trying to push out. For Shopping for a Change, we have Daniela Ruah, an actress from NCIS: Los Angeles as our organization’s ambassador.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Fighting a losing battle for so long and realizing that at some point as much as it might hurt in short term, realize when it’s time to cut losses. You can still take resources you built up for yourself and pivot them to something else you have more control over and can better shape the path and destiny rather than fighting a losing battle.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Product licensing idea: a system for Camelback-style water bottles that allows for straw-sipping as well as upwards-tilt sipping. Built into bottle top/cap would be two sipping holes with some sort of weighted pendulum-type mechanism that would seal the tilt-hole when in upright straw-sipping position and would slide over and seal the straw-hole when in upwards-tilt sipping position. Dual-sip water bottle.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
“Proggio,” an online project management tool, is crucial for multitasking entrepreneurs like myself. I use it to manage all my tasks with Marco. I have line items for all development, design, business-end, partnerships, social media, marketing, and stuff in this cloud-based program. All my team members are on there so when a deliverable needs to get done or something needs to get pushed out or a timeline is getting extended, I get to see domino effect implications. So, when I move one thing, I can see how everything else will push our overall timeline and have effects on other tasks. So, for a project manager like myself, it’s perfect.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Same answer as above.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
There’s a podcast called “Business Wars” by a company called Wondery. It’s all anecdotal stories of the rise and struggles between two titans of respective industries and their ability to innovate. My favorite episodes have been Blockbuster vs Netflix, Ford vs Chevrolet, and eBay vs PayPal.
What is your favorite quote?
“He did not know he could not fly, so he did.” ~ Guy Clark, The Cape.
- Technology is empowering, as it can be leveraged in many different ways.
- We should all work to be more solutions-oriented rather than getting stuck on a problem outside of our control.
- In order for entrepreneurs to succeed, it is imperative to get feedback from the people they are creating products for.