The ability and discipline to listen to people helps bring ideas to life. Once you understand the problem, you can then try to solve it.
Bobby Emamian is the co-founder and CEO of Prolific Interactive, a strategy-led mobile agency headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. A former college athlete, Bobby’s competitive nature and mix of technical, business, strategic, and managerial skills account for Prolific’s fast growth in the mobile industry. Bobby and his team, also located in San Francisco, have worked with such companies as ModCloth, Threadless, Lululemon Athletica, Rent the Runway, Hewlett-Packard, and the NBA.
Where did the idea for Prolific come from?
The idea of Prolific started on the road when Eric Weber and I played baseball at Quinnipiac University. We would hack websites and apps together, and that led to the beginning of our journey. We really just loved to build stuff. The idea of designing and developing was something that appealed to our strengths. As we started to take on harder problems, we realized that we could do anything we set our minds to.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day usually includes working on business development, collaborating with our MDs, COO, and CFO, conducting product conversations with our team, and assembling a strategic vision for how we can provide the most value to our partners.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Creating time to think is probably the hardest thing to do because there might be fires to put out or growth plans to develop. The ability and discipline to listen to people helps bring ideas to life. Once you understand the problem, you can then try to solve it.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Businesses embracing mobile as the key to the future of their success is exciting to me. I’m biased because all of our work is in mobile, but it’s great to see businesses listening to their customers. They’re always on their mobile devices because of the convenience.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m very curious and ask a lot of questions that make me more productive. If I know the goal and objective of any problem, then I can stay focused on the task at hand. If there’s no clear understanding of where we need to get, then I’m not as productive.
I always relate it to having a superpower. Imagine that whatever plan you wrote down on paper could come true. That plan better have as much risk minimized as possible through your calculation of all the scenarios that could happen. Asking questions will give you an opportunity to learn. A byproduct of that process is that it will expose weaknesses or strengths in any game plan.
If you are genuinely curious, then you will have the ability to strengthen your plan with the right team.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
In high school, I worked at a pizza station for the Pilot Pen tennis tournament. I really enjoyed the people I worked with, but it was labor-intensive work. I learned a lot that summer by observing the dynamic of the event and the staff. There were veterans who had been working it for years. They could answer any question, and they also earned a lot of respect from co-workers.
I learned that hard work and experience gain the respect of your peers. This lesson was especially useful when we started the company because no one believed we could build truly great products. All we needed was a chance to prove ourselves, and the only way to do that was to put our heads down and continue to work hard.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
We have no regrets so far, and we appreciate all the failures we’ve learned from in our past. Without the experience of doing things well or poorly, we wouldn’t have learned the lessons we learned.
We keep those lessons close to our chests and use them as our guiding light as we move forward. We embrace the challenges we come across and look forward to continuing to learn from more experiences.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think asking questions is a key piece to anyone’s growth and confidence. I remember hitting a point where I became okay with not having an answer for everything. It’s okay to ask questions if everyone knows that acronym except for you. Step up and find out new information.
Being honest with yourself and feeling like you don’t have to prove yourself to other people to show that you’re smart is the difference between success and failure.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We have a very tight-knit family at Prolific. Empowering our team to make the right decisions is what we’ve been working toward since we started the company. Every experience is an investment and opportunity to grow as people and as a business.
Help your team take on those new experiences and be ready to tackle new projects with them, instead of trying to do everything yourself.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There are many challenges, and you fail at most of them throughout your entrepreneurial adventure. I learned to regroup quickly and create a game plan that addressed how I was going to improve the next time I was in that situation. It’s easy to go and hide in the corner of the room and feel sorry for yourself. You have to also understand that you are the one who has the power to fix it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m a big fan of Elon Musk and everything he’s done with Tesla and the automobile industry, from the way Tesla prototyped its first car to the scale at which the brand is growing. One possible alternative for charging these automobiles could be a powermat for electric vehicles. Imagine your garage floor is a powermat, and the car’s tires connect to the powermat to recharge. You could then build it into the roads or places travelers stop along the way.
Tell us something about you that very few people know.
After I graduated from college, I started to pursue my graduate degree at the same time we started the company. After a few weeks, I decided to drop out of the program and focus 100 percent of my time and effort on the company. Looking back, I’m glad I made that decision.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Depending on the situation, I use a variety of tools to help me throughout my day. I like Gmail, Evernote, HipChat, Skype, Pivotal Tracker, Google Docs, and Harvest.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recently read “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz. He does an amazing job of giving insights into his experiences. His concepts are approachable and help identify the right and wrong ways to approach difficult situations. I highly recommend this book.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Our advisory board has been instrumental in our growth. The members’ experiences and support have been very helpful in growing and stabilizing our business. They include Mike Germano, Shirley Bergin, Kevin Weatherman, Jason Beckerman, Merrick Rosner, Al Periu, and John Berkowitz.
I’ve been inspired by my parents, as well as Shervin Pishevar and Pejman Nozad. My parents are of Iranian descent and moved to the U.S. with nothing, hoping for a better future for my sister and me. I owe my life to my parents, and they are truly the bravest people I know. Shervin and Pejman’s success in technology has inspired me.
Bobby Emamian on Twitter: @prolificbobby
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.