[quote style=”boxed”]Tenacity is the #1 quality of an entrepreneur, even before intelligence. I’d wager to say 9 out of 10 business failures are because of lack of tenacity.[/quote]
LazyAngel co-founders Emile Cureau and Rachel Cope are developing a charitable web app that allows Internet users to fight child malnutrition for free. With long days, late nights and relentless determination, they are “hacking” charity and making it easier for people to do good.
Emile’s life’s purpose is to create perpetual motion machines that leverage philanthropic action. He wants to make it easier for altruistic people to do good and to deliver a bigger impact for their efforts. At age 19, after an all-night debate on the virtues and vices of fair trade, Emile and his friend dropped out of college to start a fair trade coffee company. Within 2 years, they had created a fair trade coffee roasting, packaging, and distributing operation with 14 employees and $2 million in assets. For the last 2 years, he’s been the driving force behind the LazyAngel.org vision. He’s put in over a year, $60K+ and lines of code into retraining himself as a programmer (as well an online marketer).
Rachel’s deepest passion is to create meaning and social change. After college, Rachel spent 2 years in a remote Guatemalan village developing micro-business projects to teach students entrepreneurship. When she returned to the U.S., she began working with Emile on his fair trade coffee business. As the development director, she worked with coffee growers, coordinated coffee importing and managed production. For the last 2 years, all of her time and resources have been focused on developing LazyAngel. Her focus has been on design, marketing, sales development and NGO relationships. She recently returned to Guatemala to distribute LazyAngel’s first health grant and met the children impacted by LazyAngel.
What are you working on right now?
Rachel: We recently launched the beta version of LazyAngel.org. We’re working on adding a gamification layer so users can feel the experience of their impact. Right now, LazyAngel is just a simple browser app that tracks your impact in health days. Soon you’ll earn health points, spend those points on real-world health projects and follow your friends as they do the same.
Where did the idea for LazyAngel come from?
Emile: People are always trying to “hack” their lives whether it be their workweeks, their health routines or their love lives. They want to get more done for less money and time. We wanted to “hack charity,” something that hadn’t been hacked before. We did this by combining 2 simple ideas. The first idea was taken from the world’s top economists who recently ranked solutions to global problems. They decided that the single most effective way to help the world was to get micronutrients to malnourished kids. The second idea came from Gmail, Pandora, blogs, and iPhone apps. All these services are free because of online advertising. LazyAngel is a fusion of 2 ideas: the online ad model funding the world’s best cause. It’s the realization that if 1 person looked at 1 extra text ad while they surf the Web, they could make malnourished kids healthy without paying a dime.
In beta alone, with just 250 beta users, we helped 600 kids in Tecpan, Guatemala. Read about the project here:
What does your typical day look like?
Emile: We’ve been working on this project for over 2 years. We lost over a year of work and nearly all of our investor’s money by outsourcing the development abroad. We had to start over from square one and build it ourselves with no development experience!
Rachel: We started over. And the typical day had us working late into the night. For 2 years we got no feedback if what we were doing was right, that it would work or that anyone would notice. We spent our savings, cut back on expenses and constantly heard advice to abandon the idea for something more realistic.
Emile: We kept at it. We’ve helped each other. When one of us is exhausted and demoralized, the other picks up the slack. That’s what a workday looks like. 🙂
Now that the product is almost done, everyone loves it. Our user base is growing. People are emailing us full of praise. We haven’t even officially launched and the outpour of love is overwhelming. So we’re excited to see what our typical day can be. Things are looking up. But in the end, I imagine we’ll miss those rock-bottom days in some ways.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Rachel: Great ideas aren’t worth much by themselves. The trick is execution. You have to plan, prioritize and stay focused.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Emile: I’m not excited about iPhone apps, tablet computing or Facebook integration. I’m excited when people log off. When no cell phones are on the table, no PCs are glowing in your face and when people start trending on the flowers growing at their feet.
Rachel: BUT! when people are online, they should be surfing with LazyAngel. Think of it as an indulgence for your digital sins. 🙂
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Emile: Recently, I had to fix up a rundown sailboat and sail it from Baja, Mexico to Long Beach, California. While removing rust, my hands were badly burned by hydrofluoric acid. I was hours away from a good hospital. I had to get all sorts of injections to prevent cardiac arrest. Two day later, with burned hands, we set sail. Thirteen miles out of our port, the wind died, the engine died and the radio died. I was sea sick for 12 hours until we were rescued by the Mexican Ejercito Nacional. Our second sailing attempt consisted of the cabin filling up with water, 2 more rescues from the Coast Guard and 40 hours of being cold, wet and sleepless. Finally we made it into Long Beach where the boat still sits. I learned: toughen up, lighten up and live it up; and a bunch of sailor slang that I’ll refrain from writing here.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Rachel: To not bite off more than we could chew. We would have realize earlier that everything takes twice as long as expected and planned accordingly.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Emile: Fail first. Every time we come up with an idea on paper, we put it aside. We let it sit for a few days. And then we rip it apart from every angle. We want to fail first on paper instead of failing after putting tons of energy into it. Be very dubious of that moment you shout “eureka!” Many bad ideas feel good initially. To make matters worse, we entrepreneurs get progressively jazzed about our bad ideas as we defend them from criticism.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Rachel: Whenever you start a sentence with, “I wish….” then you have a business idea. One “blue ocean” that I’ve noticed is the market for “slightly” sweet products. Most grocery items have tons of sugar or are artificially flavored. There’s a market for slightly sweet. You can do this for anything: soda, alcohol, yogurt, etc. Hopefully that gets someone started. But remember, ideas aren’t worth anything anyway. It’s all in the execution.
Tell us a secret.
Rachel: After living in Guatemala, I developed a closet love for 80’s Spanish Romanica music.
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
- Todoist online and iPhone for a to do system.
- TuneIn Radio for iPhone to learn and practice a foreign language.
- LazyAngel.org because you can support the world’s best cause for free (shameless plug).
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Emile: Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. Mindfulness and concentration are more important than the ability to read and write. To live life skillfully, you need to develop a contemplative practice (within religion or without).
What’s on your playlist?
Emile: It’s always changing. Frank Zappa and Thelonious Monk are new (yet old) favorites. I have a propensity to crush on female vocalists (like Regina Spektor and Adele, and even the long departed Sarah Vaughan…”Whatever Lola Wants” [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-g5YNPzr8NM] trips me up).
If you weren’t working on LazyAngel, what would you be doing?
Rachel: I’d live on an orchard in western Colorado. Maybe start a pie shop? Something non-tech for a while.
Emile: Maybe I’d become a psychiatrist. The neurotic often want to become psychiatrists, right?! But I’d do it in the south of France, while taking piano lessons and occasionally tending to my vineyard. Is that an option?
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Emile: You should unfollow three people. Less is more.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Rachel: Playing Telephone Pictionary over hot buttered rum with my sister and childhood friends. There’s nothing quite like old friends and siblings to bring out the goofy child in you.
Who is your hero?
Emile: Anyone who feels comfortable in his or her own skin and has a genuine love and acceptance of others.
Rachel: My parents, Thomas Merton and a new hero is David Keirsey, author of the Myers-Briggs personality books. Reading his work has helped me to see myself and others with new clarity and understanding.
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Emile: Not 7 times, but 70 times 7 times. Tenacity is the #1 quality of an entrepreneur, even before intelligence. I’d wager to say 9 out of 10 business failures are because of lack of tenacity.
What are 3 small but important lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
1. Eat the frog. Do the most dreaded task first.
2. Touch it once. Don’t leave things undone.
3. Focus on results and don’t multi-task. Focus on project results and not just completing tasks.
Emile Cureau on Twitter: @emilecureau
Rachel Cope on Twitter: @rachelcope
Emile Cureau on LinkedIn:http://www.linkedin.com/pub/emile-cureau/8/382/489
Rachel Cope on LinkedIn:
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.