My personal motto is “It’s never a question of if it can be done, the only question is how.”
Dan Goman, Founder and CEO of OWNZONES, is a recognized technology innovator with a strong background in strategic leadership at Fortune 100 companies including Microsoft, AT&T Wireless, and Lucent Technologies. While a program manager in the Windows Media division of Microsoft, Goman coordinated with content and hardware partners to develop and enhance digital rights management functionality for the company’s device-independent PlayReady DRM product.
Goman’s expertise with DRM combined with his realization that a paid content solution will succeed only if it favors all parties involved, led him to found OWNZONES in 2010. Offering media companies a personalized digital content platform through which they can access new revenue opportunities for their original content, OWNZONES serves the consumer the content they want, anywhere, anytime, across any device via an elegant and easy to use website.
Prior to creating OWNZONES, Goman spent 15 years in the computer sciences industry as a technical engineer and consultant, directing large cross- disciplinary teams.
Where did the idea for OWNZONES come from?
The idea came from the transition I noticed mainly in the news space – going from free to paid and implementing paywalls everywhere. It occurred to me that this would not be a good solution for consumers as they would have to be managing too many subscriptions. They would, in effect, become a subscription management business. The fact that in general, the entire content world started transitioning from free to some kind of paid model – further exacerbated the situation. My idea was simple – create one place where you can find all of the content you love, in all formats (print/text/audio/video), free of ads, free of clutter – available across all platforms.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is chaotic – filled with conference calls, impromptu meetings, text messages and tons of e-mails. It’s really hard to be productive between the hours of 8-5, so my real work actually occurs after 5PM. Between the hours of 5 – 12 is when I am most productive. To keep productive during work hours, I work hard to keep to a schedule but I don’t always succeed.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My ideas usually come sometime during the middle of the night and I jump out of bed, grab my phone and start sending out e-mails to get things going. Some of our best ideas were born in the middle of the night and we are fortunate that we are small and nimble – we move quickly. Our team always has an open mind and we are very quick to seize opportunities. Having a good team with an innovative mind is the key to bringing ideas to life.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The idea of having content available everywhere – to have your content follow you – I think this is a revolutionary idea. Technology enables this idea and we have seen many technical innovations in the last couple of years that allows you to consume content no matter the equipment or location. We all lead very busy lives, they are chaotic – we as consumers should be able to consume content on our own terms when WE have the availability. I think you will see this to be a growing trend for the foreseeable future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
In order to be successful in my job and overall as a company, I have to keep abreast of everything that’s going on in our industry. I am a voracious reader – I consume very large amounts of news of all kinds throughout the day. I can’t tell you how many times this has helped me in business discussions, etc. Being “in the know” is of paramount importance.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was a technical consultant job working for a technical consulting firm that had many large corporate clients in the late nineties. The firm was a “body shop” that did everything they could to place as many people as possible on client sites. In summary, I learned what NOT to do when running a company – everything they did was something that you would not want to emulate if you wanted to be successful. From the way they treated their employees, the way they generated business, the lies they sold to their clients – to the way the laid off staff – it was the stuff movies are made of – hard to believe. They lured employees in with talk of great processes, knowledge, positive environment – but it was all a façade. When the economy crumbled in early 2000, everything crumbled and their true colors came out.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would probably have a lot more reasonable expectations about the business in general and not be so naïve about things – although I think a certain level of naiveté is almost a requirement to achieving success.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am always optimistic – always expect a positive outcome. Of course this doesn’t always happen, but I don’t get negative about things (if I do, it doesn’t last long). This is ABSOLUTE KEY if you want to be successful. Every key opportunity that comes your way – you will never achieve success if you go into it thinking that things will not work out. You have to go in believing that things will work out positively. People sense how you feel very quickly. One thing that I’ve been told over and over again by people who invested significant amounts of money into my business – is the fact that they can sense my optimism and that was the one key thing that made them invest. Even during the most dire times when most things were not going well for us, I was able to obtain funding because people were sold on my passion and optimism for the business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
My personal motto is “It’s never a question of if it can be done, the only question is how.” When one avenue fails, you try another. Just because people tell you that it can’t be done doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. This strategy was at the core of all successes/initiatives that grew our business. From acquiring content (which almost everyone said would never happen because the content world simply wouldn’t work with us) to generating subscribers to creating marquee partnerships – all of it was accomplished by starting with the assumption that there was a way to do it, we just simply had to find the way to do it.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I spent quite a bit of time in the early years trying to convince Venture Capital firms to invest in us. I failed. But it turns out that the failure (in the long run) was a very positive thing for me and the business. I networked my way into raising about $11M in private investments and kept 60% of the company for myself.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ve been watching a lot of Shark Tank lately and I’m fascinated by different types of business ideas being shared on the show. What’s even more fascinating is seeing what most people would consider “crazy ideas” come to life and end up being successful.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I’m pretty frugal, so I don’t like to spend $100 on anything! But I did buy a FitBit recently to help me understand my activity level and most importantly, try to get control of my sleep cycle. For everyone that thinks they know their sleeping habits (how many times you wake up in the middle of the night, how much actual real sleep you get, etc) – please buy a FitBit. You will be surprised.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
For business, absolutely love Microsoft Office 365. You can have an entire “big company” back office functionality for small company budget. The stuff that only the big guys could afford is now available for everyone. Plus, they are now making Office available on all kinds of devices (not just Microsoft) – very cool of Microsoft to do this! I also started using Slack to get control of the tons of communication tools – it allows us to consolidate everything into one location and easily collaborate with the entire team without overwhelming us. Great idea!!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It took me a very long time to read this one because I think it’s a little hard to wrap your head around what’s being conveyed – but I am fascinated by a book called “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable ” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (no, it’s not the Natalie Portman “Black Swan” movie J). For people that are looking to stay ahead of trends – or maybe get insights into the rise of different business/global phenomenons, I think it is really eye opening.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
In general, I am impressed with people that set high goals and work hard to achieve them – and persevere. People that look at everything through the lens of tomorrow. In certain ways, I have been influenced by people like Michaelangelo (love this quote from him: The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.), Henry Ford (led the auto revolution – like this quote from him: “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”), Thomas Edison (one of the most prolific inventors/innovators ever – “There is no substitute for hard work.”), Winston Churchill (led England through one of the toughest periods in history “Never, never, never give up”).