“Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.” –Farrah Gray
Dean is the co-founder and CEO of Bivid, which launched from beta in January 2016. From a very young age, Dean felt compelled to sell, build and create. During his middle school years, he sold food, candy, fruit drinks, bracelets and more to the student body, and even though he made only a few hundred dollars each month, he enjoyed the hustle and grind of working hard.
While attending high school, Dean started becoming interested in a variety of fields, from medical to technology to finance, searching for a niche in any of these spaces that he could capitalize on. After working in a variety of fields and learning an incredible amount about each, he narrowed down his search for the perfect business: ultimately leading to his becoming immersed in the worlds of finance and technology.
Dean pursued interests in the financial industry, studying finance at Touro College in Manhattan and working at Fintech startups like Itemize. Dean has worked and interned with CEOs and presidents of Fortune 1000 companies that trade publicly on the New York Stock Exchange. Dean also worked at Link Real Estate Group in New York City during his freshman year of college. When Meridian Capital offered him a job after college, Dean declined the offer to work on what he realized was his true passion — social networks and Bivid.
Where did the idea for Bivid come from?
My co-founder Mendy Raskin and I met in college in New York City nearly three years ago. Being from NYC ourselves, we wondered why there was no good way for people standing within several feet of each other to connect, and to discover events and happenings in real-time. NYC has so much vibrant culture and life to offer, but it’s challenging to find the right parties, sports events, you name it — when you’re looking for them. That was something we wanted to change.
After many all-nighters, the full concept of Bivid was born. Then we did something that everyone had warned us not to do: we dropped out of college. We spent all our money creating designs and a prototype, which ultimately led to us raising a round of seed funding. In the vernacular, bivid means “to work and come together,” and we feel that the app encapsulates this value.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I get very little sleep on a regular basis, usually four to five hours each night, but I’m incredibly list-oriented and manage my schedule that way to stay productive and efficient. These lists include tasks, goals, ideas, short term lists (morning/day/week) to long term (month/year/even decade).
Here’s my typical day: I wake at 8 a.m. and immediately reach for my phone to review my missed emails, texts and calls. Then I head straight to my computer and check my schedule and lists that I made the night before. Soon, my stomach begins hurting, so I check the time to make sure I haven’t missed breakfast, and to my daily surprise it’s already 3:00 p.m. Then, I quickly shower, brush my teeth and eat. I continue the day back at my computer, where I respond to emails, jump from call to call, manage expectations from investors and the board, inspect marketing metrics and creatives and brainstorm ideas with my co-founder and tech lead.
Often, I hear my door open, hearing my sister scream “hello!”, and realize it’s 6:00 p.m. She quickly rushes past my room, saying, “don’t worry; I won’t bother you,” as she knows I am hypnotized by my work and can’t look away or say a single word that might distract me. Soon enough, my stomach alerts me that I need to eat dinner, which is my favorite meal of the day. Here’s where I let myself indulge and relax every day.
I make reservations for dinner in New York City with friend/s talk about our lives ambitions and goals. Towards the end of the meal, my phone becomes overwhelmed with emails and calls, letting me know I need to wrap up dinner and get back to work. I arrive home from dinner at around 10:00 p.m. and rush back to my computer. Once I complete my tasks, I have some free time to relax until the clock hits midnight. Then all of our employees that work for Bivid in different time zones sign on, and my team and I begin our work load again. We usually finish around 2 a.m., and our tech lead examines their work. Then I review my day’s lists, emails, and messages one last time to make sure I can have a deep and uninterrupted four to five hours of sleep. I finally prepare for bed around 3:00 a.m., and have my laptop and phone right next to me as I sit in bed reading the news and reviewing the markets — since my passion for fintech remains strong!
While most people wouldn’t want this schedule, I wouldn’t give it up for anything else right now. I don’t see all those hours as work; I see it as doing something I love every day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I used to wish and blow out the candles, but that never worked, so I started doing something new! In all seriousness, most people spend too much time talking and not enough time doing. Too often, fear of failure causes great ideas to fall flat. I would advise people to turn their flaws into strengths to conquer their weaknesses — it will allow you to bring ideas to life in ways you can’t even imagine.
Also, I am a big fan of lists! I tend to be forgetful, so I began creating lists out of necessity. I have lists of music I want to listen to, I have lists of art I want to view, I have lists of articles I want to read. I even have a book that I keep with me at all times so I can write down any ideas that suddenly come to mind. True to character, here is one of my favorite quotes: “The dullest pencil will always remember more than the sharpest mind”.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
One trend that really excites me is how many kids in high school and college are committing to becoming entrepreneurs. I see so many kids taking educated risks and trying new things that typically would be frowned upon a decade ago. The world is more open and accepting of kids following their dreams and passions, which is a really cool thing to witness.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Besides for lists, one of my new habits is simply unplugging. Giving yourself time for exercise or meditation to block the world out for just a few minutes can change your whole day and what you accomplish.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve never had a job that I truly disliked though I have had bad days. However, I always thought a bad day was a choice, and not a given. I did learn a lot during those bad days, and how to cope with them, which is extremely important. I make sure to start each day from scratch, with new aspirations, to make the day better than the one before it.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have done a million things differently, but I don’t dwell on the past. I am happy where I am today, and changing any of those so called “mistakes” might have led to different outcomes. I proudly say I made many mistakes when I started, but the more mistakes I made, the more I learned, and the more I learned, the higher the chances I will succeed the next time the same challenges arise.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The most important part of my job is to visualize the future and success of Bivid. That is something I do every day. Once I see the big picture, I create the roadmap to get there. Nothing is more rewarding than getting to that milestone a year later, and looking how far my platform has evolved and improved. I see how far we have come and I see the future of Bivid and it looks bright and I can’t wait to share it with the world.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
To scale Bivid quickly, we employed college ambassadors at campuses around the world to spread the Bivid love. We have representatives at top colleges, like the University of Maryland, Syracuse, Rutgers, Binghamton and others. The ambassadors have helped us generate downloads among college students, and we’re really seeing our user base exploding.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have had many failures as an entrepreneur, but my most recent was a startup called FinalStage that I launched. The premise of the idea came to me from my younger sister: she loves to sing, and I’ve taken her to a bunch of American Idol-type competitions. I was always amazed how people were willing to stand all night for just 10 seconds to show their skills to the executives in the hopes of being picked. I wanted to create an online platform that streamlined this process and allowed anyone to show off their talent while gaining votes, exposure, and fans. Think of it as a mixture of LinkedIn and YouTube with a twist for creative artists in all categories.
After creating a business plan and designs, I went on my quest to raise capital. I went to 100 meetings and came out empty. No one believed in the idea, and the party was shut down before it even started. As much as it hurt me, I was only 19 years old at the time, and I knew I would have a lot more opportunities in my life. A few years later I started Bivid and raised money within a week. Now, we’re about to close our Series A. Looking back I realized how much I learned in every single FinalStage meeting I attended, and my first Bivid meeting was meeting 101 for me.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Here is an idea I am willing to share. It’s titled “Assistant”. It would be an artificial intelligence platform that would help people in their everyday lives with certain tasks to keep them organized, up-to-date and all around more efficient. Think of it as a very advanced Siri, which would automatically integrate with emails, tasks, calls, scheduling and beyond. It would slowly learn each person’s life or work style and adapt to make their lives easier. For example, if “Assistant” sees that you are running late to a meeting, it can automatically send an email or text to the other attendees that you are running late and that you are arriving in five minutes.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I was on vacation for a couple of days in Hawaii last month and I spent $100 to go shark diving. It might not have been the best $100 I spent if I had got bitten, but I kept my distance and had the most memorable experience of my life!
I had wanted to try shark diving since my parents and siblings did it 10 years ago, and at the time, I had been scared to enter the water. Even though this was a personal experience, it demonstrates the values that I hold dear to my professional life. For some situations, you have to wait for the right timing, but you have to push yourself even when things scare you.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
YouTube has always been one of my favorite websites for learning. I am a quick visual learner, so I mostly used YouTube as a learning tool for more things than I can count. I watched interviews, presentations, diagrams, tutorials, and more. I don’t have that much time on my hands anymore to watch them, but definitely, recommend anyone who does to take advantage of all the learning opportunities YouTube can offer.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
I highly recommend this book by Ed Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar Animation. This book takes readers on an adventure about the balance of creativity and business, and it shows what it takes to foster a strong vision and perfection. Unlike most founder autobiographies, Ed takes readers on a raw but surreal trip of what it was really like to be behind the action of Pixar.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
A few of the many…