The number one thing I always do is focus on traction. The earliest stages of a startup are very tough, and even individuals with a lot of willpower can lose the will to keep going.
Deb founded MarketsNow after realizing that there was an opportunity to publish high quality financial market analysis that would help people make better decisions. Prior to MarketsNow, Deb worked in a variety of roles across financial services. Specifically, he worked in foreign exchange trading in Hong Kong (GAIN Capital), in international payments – also in Hong Kong (Forex.com Money Transfers, World First) and in technology venture capital in Canada (VantagePoint Capital Partners, Tandem Expansion Fund). He is a graduate of McGill University and the University of Hong Kong.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
The idea for the company came from my previous professional experience in the foreign exchange industry. Once I started trading foreign exchange, I spent a lot of time looking for commentary on the markets and trading ideas. Despite the obvious need for online content specifically tailored towards developments in the foreign exchange market, I was unable to find reliable and high quality information. I founded MarketsNow in order to address this need.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up every morning at 6:30, and I start publishing market updates on various currencies shortly thereafter. In order to make MarketsNow as useful as possible for visitors, I aim to finish publishing news updates before the start of the working day in Europe. Over the rest of the day, I’ll usually write longer commentaries or work on other aspects of the business itself. My main way of ensuring that I stay productive is by getting a good night of sleep, having easy access to good coffee and enjoying my massage chair at the end of the day. Decompressing in the evenings helps me stay productive during the day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I always start with a prototype. When trying to bring aspects of the website to life, I start by drawing out my ideas on a piece of paper. When brainstorming ideas for content, I usually start with the title. Once I have a bare outline of my idea, filling in the details becomes much easier.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love how the world is becoming more decentralized. It started with the decentralization of information following the adoption of the internet in the 90s, and now it’s happening across many areas including money, politics and startups. Back when I worked in venture capital, institutional funds closely guarded access to capital. Today, anyone can raise millions of dollars through crowdfunding on networks like AngelList. Bitcoin is now threatening money itself, and I think we’re still in the early stages of this trend.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
When it comes to being productive as an entrepreneur, one way to get a lot more done is to ensure everything you do can scale. For example: when I produce content, I try to write for a fairly wide audience (but without becoming a generalist). Similarly when I promote my business, I ensure that my marketing activities will have a long-term impact for many years to come. By focusing on activities that scale, you can make giant strides without working too hard.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I was fairly quick to ‘jump the gun’ when I was younger, and felt that others spent far too much time obsessing over details. While my tolerance for risk remains quite high, I’ve learned to slow down and deliberate over decisions. I’ve also learned to appreciate other perspectives, and recognize my own biases.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
While most people believe that ‘you need money to make money’, as an ex-venture capital investor and current entrepreneur, I can confidently say this isn’t true. As an entrepreneur, I really love the ‘lean’ startup movement. It’s much better to focus on developing an early prototype in a market that is looking for a solution. By becoming in sync with the needs of your customers at a very early stage, you are much more likely to be successful over time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The number one thing I always do is focus on traction. The earliest stages of a startup are very tough, and even individuals with a lot of willpower can lose the will to keep going. Once a startup gains any form of traction (especially revenue, but can include secondary accomplishments such as app installs, visitors to your website or press mentions), your desire to keep going will increase naturally. It’s hard to stay motivated without any positive feedback.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Despite the cliché of ‘content is king’, focusing on content has been a great help for MarketsNow. All startups suffer from low credibility at the outset, and one of the few ways to change this perception is by publishing and distributing high quality content. While most business partners or potential customers may be initially skeptical of your company, it’s difficult to remain skeptical if you are a demonstrated expert in your field.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As an entrepreneur, my main failures are related to my personal weaknesses. For example: user experience and design has never been my strength, and the first iteration of my company’s website was confusing and difficult to use. I hired a great user experience consultant, who was able to transform the navigability and layout of my site after a 30 minute call.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ve been watching cryptocurrencies with a lot of interest, and there is clear need for a new cryptocurrency that is pegged to fiat currencies such as the US dollar. The extreme volatility in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum make them a very poor store of value. For cryptocurrency wallet providers, hedging the cost of Bitcoin to fiat currencies is prohibitively expensive. While Tether (a blockchain-based currency pegged to USD) has been widely adopted today, there are a lot of concerns regarding the USD holdings that stand behind the currency. Given the decentralized nature of blockchain technology, there must be a better solution for this problem.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent was on a consulting call on Clarity.fm. While startups can seldom afford to hire great full time employees at the outset, there is a huge pool of talent available for short-term consulting work. Given the breadth of talent on a platform like Clarity.fm, you can quickly find tailored answers to almost any business issue (e.g. raising funds, conversion optimization, SEO, etc.) you are facing.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I really like Trello. The product is effortless to learn, and very easy to use. I work with a globally distributed team, and use Trello in order to coordinate various activities. By using the product, I always know exactly what was accomplished and next-steps that are required from both me and the broader team.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I strongly believe that anyone interested in entrepreneurship should read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. While some businesses require a lot of capital at the outset, the vast majority of startups can be founded for less than $30,000. Once you understand that talent is far more important than money, your perspective on entrepreneurship is likely to change forever.
What is your favorite quote?
“If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
- Don’t believe the accepted wisdom that ‘you need money to make money’. Try and address the market’s needs with a simple prototype. When your customers have pressing needs, they will be happy to overlook your product’s shortcomings.
- One easy way to become credible quickly is to start publishing and distributing high quality content. Becoming an authority in your field will do wonders for your new business.
- Focus most of your efforts on getting early traction. Even if you have a lot of willpower, it’s tough to keep going without getting any positive feedback.
- Be realistic about your shortcomings and hire outsiders where you fall short. Even if you can’t afford an employee, there are a large number of consultants that are available for short-term engagements.
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.