Brian Ardinger - Co-founder of The Big Plate

[quote style=”boxed”]Knowing what I know now, I’d start earlier and experiment more often. Trust yourself and your ability to figure things out, then jump.[/quote]

Brian Ardinger is co-founder of The Big Plate, a collaborative community for entrepreneurs and startups, and chief marketing officer at Nanonation, a leading customer experience software company.

Prior to these most recent projects, Brian was head of research at Ion Global, a technology firm–headquartered in Hong Kong–where he developed Asia’s first dedicated customer experience lab to analyze and measure how customers utilized technology in their shopping and online experiences. In addition to working overseas, Mr. Ardinger has been a senior consultant with Gartner (based in Silicon Valley) where he implemented strategy and research for multinationals around the world and managed projects in industries ranging from software to telecommunications.

On the personal side, he co-created the Quest-4 project, where he road-tripped around America, interviewing people about success and their varying paths in life. He’s a slow runner and a fast learner, and is active in causes close to his heart, including the Bionic Ear Association where he serves as a parent mentor.

What are you working on right now?

Four months ago we launched The Big Plate as a way to give entrepreneurs a seat at the table. Our goal is to develop a platform for startups to build connections, share war stories, and collaboratively create. We’ve had the privilege of profiling innovative companies, founders, and projects that have served as inspiration for our members. More importantly, we’ve given people direct access to a diverse set of smart, dedicated folks who are building things. We’ve held weekly Table Talks and meet-ups on an eclectic set of topics, including productive coworking, the startup ecosystem in China, tools and technologies, and women in startups–to name a few. We’re excited about the year ahead, and we’re looking forward to developing some unique ways for our members to build things together.

Where did the idea for The Big Plate come from?

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of putting smart folks at a table, starting a discussion and seeing what happens. The Big Plate came about from an “incubation night” where we’d get four or five of our smart friends together to discuss business trends, new ideas, and projects we were working on. We used it as way to share ideas and challenge each other. We found that the format worked well for creating new connections, and it forced us to keep moving our ideas forward. We thought we’d try to replicate these discussions and create a platform that other people could tap into. We wanted The Big Plate to serve as a fun way to help people connect and collaborate regularly–like an experimental kitchen for startups, if you will.

What does your typical day look like?

On good days, I start or end the day with a run. Depending on my mood, I’ll use the time to work through new ideas, catch up on audio books or podcasts, or just clear my head. Since a large part of The Big Plate involves sharing and collaborating with our growing community, I spend a chunk of each day curating content and sharing it on our public and private social platforms. My co-founder, Todd Long, focuses a lot of his effort on the interviews and personal stories, while I focus on the logistics of putting on weekly events and discussions with our members.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I read a lot. I’m constantly digging through a diverse list of sites, periodicals, and personal conversations, and then try to find the best way to share them with others. Like a geek, I keep a spreadsheet of ideas I’d like to work on, and I cross-reference this with my network of friends and contacts to see where potential overlaps exist. I find that talking about ideas gives them momentum and leads to opportunities to take the leap to try them out.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love the fact that the tools and technologies needed to start a company are now within everyone’s grasp–from infrastructures to education to networks of mentors. It’s never been easier to put your ideas into action.

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

Never work for people who don’t care about others–enough said.

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

Knowing what I know now, I’d start earlier and experiment more often. Trust yourself and your ability to figure things out, then jump.

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

I think it’s important to constantly reconnect with the reason you started something in the first place. Startups are never easy, but if you can keep your big picture in mind, it makes the dips easier to push through.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Don’t be afraid to be the dumbest one in the room. Ask for help and surround yourself with talent. It forces you to raise your game.

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

I’d love for someone to offer a “Cliffs Notes” for conferences, for those who can’t attend, to summarize the sessions and highlights in an easy-to-read packet of info.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

There are a ton of things needing change in the world. Pick one and go for it.

Tell us a secret.

I’m a sucker for a well-made marketing pitch.

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

I use Mailchimp for all our email needs and use Zirtual as my virtual assistant. Evernote is my research and idea repository. All three are seriously great tools.

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

I really liked Derek Sivers book, Anything You Want. It has great insights about doing what you love and taking risks, mixed with some straight, talking advice.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

@garyvee is the best I’ve ever seen at using Twitter to connect with people.
@frankyu offers great insights and pictures when it comes to China and startups.
@retailgeek does a nice job curating the world of retail and technology.

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

I’ve got a five-year-old daughter and a six-month-old son. I laugh loud and long every day; I’m always amazed at what they do and say.

Who is your hero?

I look up to my wife for her tenacity and heart.

Dog or Cat? PC or Mac?

Dog and Mac.


Brian Ardinger on LinkedIn:
Brian Ardinger on Twitter: @ardinger
The Big Plate on Twitter: @TheBigPlate
The Big Plate’s website: