[quote style=”boxed”]I washed fences for a while. My lesson: You’ve got to stop scrubbing every now and then to add bleach to the solution. For me now, that means you’ve got to take time to rest—if you keep working and working and working without pause, you end up working inefficiently and getting less done than if you’d just stopped and come back to it fresh.[/quote]
Ben Wagner and Jonathan Yagel are working to change the way people interact online, to change the way people live offline. Their company is LifeKraze—it’s a Web platform that facilitates active lifestyles and allows people to share their accomplishments. LifeKraze users share their personal achievements with 160-character posts, to which they can attach links, pictures, and videos. Each user has 200 Kraze Points each day that they can distribute to whichever posts they find most impressive. As users collect Points, they can track their ranking against friends; these Points can also be redeemed for discounts and products from brand partners like Reebok, Men’s Health, and Powerade Zero.
Ben Wagner, 23, is an avid CrossFitter, rugby player, and the LifeKraze CEO. Born in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, Ben grew up playing soccer which he continued doing all the way through college. Ben played for the Scots of Covenant College, where he graduated with a degree in Business, Sociology, and Sports Management. Ben is known for his energy and focus on results. This, coupled with his youth, can lead to an “energetic impatience” that is respected (but also poked fun at) by his teammates at LifeKraze.
Jonathan Yagel, 25, also likes soccer, CrossFit, LifeKraze, and Ben. He is a Norfolk, Virginia native and Navy brat, who has spent most of his life moving around the world and developing friendships in two-year increments. After earning two degrees in English at the University of Virginia, he moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil. There, he worked with Seeds of Hope (a Christian non-profit ministry) to build a trade school for children from local orphanages and slum communities. Upon returning to the US, he teamed up with Ben and the other LifeKraze founders to try to build something world-changing. He currently serves as the Wordsmith and Director of Communications, allowing him to put his logophilia and general cleverness to good use. Jonathan is also an accomplished foosball player.
What are you working on right now?
Ben Wagner: Answering this question while eating lunch #multitasking. As a company, though, we’re focused on making our product as excellent as it can be. Part of that is the site itself, part of that is building more top-quality brand partnerships. We’ve got some great ones lined up.
Jonathan Yagel: I’m trying to get the word out about LifeKraze. Or several of them, actually. Particularly “This is a great website, everyone should try it for sure.” We’ve built an amazing community, and we want the masses to join in.
Where did the idea for LifeKraze come from?
Ben Wagner: We all grew up playing soccer. Our teammates and the competition of the sport helped us to stay motivated—on and off the field. We wanted to extend that sense of camaraderie and group-motivation to everyone. Building a social media platform was a pretty natural choice because that’s how our generation communicates and finds community.
Jonathan Yagel: We recognized a gap in current online social networks and, honestly, in modern society as a whole. Right now, a lot of platforms and apps are very focused around the individual and can, despite their immense capability for connection, lead to isolation. More generally, we’re letting our lives be sucked into these screens and ignoring the world and people around us. We’re really interested in using emerging social tech to build positive relationships and drive real-world action and interaction.
What does your typical day look like?
7:25 wake up
8:45 shower, cook breakfast
9:30 morning emails
12:45 lunch (typically bring it in myself)
1:00 finish any green items I have on my task list
3:00 ping pong break
5:00 work on any yellow items I have on my task list
6:30 address organization and management of the team
7:00 (T/R) rugby practice
9:00 cook dinner at my apartment
10:00 respond to emails/xbox/espn/tvseries i’m currently in to/create my task list for tomorrow
JY: Pretty much the same, shifted back two hours. Less rugby and regularity, though, and more writing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
JY: Share them with others. Our office is one big collaborative brain storm about possibilities and how to make them into realities. We’ve put up Idea Paint all over, so we can write, sketch and draw right on our walls wherever we are.
BW: Find the right people to make it happen, get them excited and keep them motivated. Figure out how to take action as quickly as possible.
3 trends that excite you?
1) the booming economy in Indonesia
2) cars that drive themselves
1) US Soccer’s rise in national popularity and international prominence
2) Increasing acceptance of comics and graphic novels as a legitimate subject of academic interest
3) Group messaging: I send more GroupMe messages than texts.
What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
BW: Telemarketing manufacturing software: how to weasel your way to the right person (and how many calls it takes to get to them)
JY: I washed fences for a while. My lesson: You’ve got to stop scrubbing every now and then to add bleach to the solution. For me now, that means you’ve got to take time to rest—if you keep working and working and working without pause, you end up working inefficiently and getting less done than if you’d just stopped and come back to it fresh.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
BW: Fewer investors.
JY: Yeah, a big investor pool can be a pain. Each individual involved is a different set of expectations.
What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?
BW: Make decisions. Analysis paralysis will kill any idea and any team.
JY: Ask lots of questions.
Tell us a secret…
BW: I’ve always had trouble enunciating cinnamon correctly…
JY: I’m Batman.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
BW: In any business, it’s critical to acknowledge that Generation Y employees have to be managed differently than Generation X employees. Also, I think a really great restaurant idea would be a chain called Crude Elegance…where they serve fancy food and cheap food in the same entree (Ex.caviar and nachos) and I think a really great bar would be Third Base (Tagline: your last stop before home)
JY: TV remotes with built-in pagers. I seriously cannot believe no one has invented that yet.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
BW: Onward by Howard Shultz. His passion for Starbucks is absolutely incredible.
JY: In general: Proverbs. Lots of wisdom. Everyone could use some more wisdom. Specifically for people with ideas: Little Bets by Peter Sims. It’s all about taking small risks in order to figure things out. Experimenting ends up being more important than planning. I also met Peter recently and he’s a very friendly guy.
If you weren’t working on LifeKraze, what would you be doing?
BW: Kicking it on the beach until I came up with an idea.
JY: Brainstorming with Wags on that beach.
Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?
Tristan Walker – if i could hire any one person to join LifeKraze right now it would be him
Bill Simmons – he’s the sports guy
Rainn Wilson – laughter is good for the body, mind, and soul
@BlakeMycoskie – living proof that you make a business and a difference
@brian_wong – young, brilliant CEO
@austinkleon – great writer, inspired me with his “Steal Like An Artist” concept
Also, Ben’s favorite Twitter account is actually @OldManSearch.
When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
BW: This morning while watching Sportscenter when Steve Young and Trent Dilfer got into it over the Orton/Tebow situation.
JY: One of our team members pointed this out: “Judging from the SIRI stock chart, I have a feeling some folks don’t realize they’re buying into Sirius XM Radio, not the new iPhone 4S AI.”
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
BW: Mark Cuban
JY: Roberto Pena (personal hero, Seeds of Hope founder), Neil Paine (hustlin’ young entrepreneur, Chaka Marketbridge founder), Peter Sims (author, also working on Fuse Corps)
What’s the toughest thing you deal with?
BW: Accepting that I can’t make everyone happy all the time.
What is the key to transitioning from the world of high academia to the world of tech entrepreneurship?
What’s your favorite snack food?
Super hero power of choice?
JY: Stopping time.