[quote style=”boxed”]Taking the leap. Reid Hoffman once said that starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down. You’re never going to have all the answers or any guarantee of success before you get started. There is a large divide between an idea and a business and you need to cross it.[/quote]
Irving Fain is the CEO & Co-Founder of CrowdTwist, a NYC-based social loyalty and rewards platform which helps brands increase sales and engagement in an increasingly cross-platform world. Prior to founding CrowdTwist, Irving ran digital marketing and social platforms for Clear Channel Radio Digital, developing and implementing an online marketing and social strategy for 1,000+ radio stations. Prior to his life as a media entrepreneur, Irving wore a suit every day in the world of finance. He spent time both as a venture investor in New York and as an investment banker, specializing in raising capital for early stage companies. He holds a B.A. from Brown University.
In his free time, you can find Irving in search of surf or planning his next travel adventure.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on building a great product and a great team at CrowdTwist. We’re growing quickly and it’s exciting to see the new challenges that come from that growth.
CrowdTwist is a social loyalty and rewards platform that engages and activates a brand’s audience wherever the brand is, both online and offline. Giving brands the ability to track, incentivize and reward customer engagement across any online, social or mobile channel, CrowdTwist grows audiences, strengthens engagement, monetizes users and increases online and offline sales conversions. CrowdTwist also empowers brands to identify their biggest cross-platform influencers and understand how an individual customer is interacting with their online, social and mobile properties.
Where did the idea for CrowdTwist come from?
CrowdTwist is an amalgamation of the personal experiences, issues and opportunities that Mike, Josh (my 2 co-founders) and I experienced in the few years prior to founding the company. I was running the loyalty program for Clear Channel’s online network and saw how powerful a tool it could be, but also how much was truly lacking. We all have experiences with loyalty programs, but it didn’t make any sense to us that while brand engagement has evolved so much in the last decade, loyalty as a discipline has remained stagnant. It’s desperately in need of innovation!
What does your typical day look like?
There’s no such thing as a typical day. One of the things that makes a startup so exciting is that every day is different. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of my time talking to potential clients, helping to recruit great people to join the CrowdTwist team and working with our existing team on building and evolving our product.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Honestly, bringing ideas to life is a team effort. Oftentimes an idea will start with one person, but it takes the whole team with their different perspectives, opinions and expertise to turn an idea into a phenomenal execution.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Aggregating and understanding the multi-channel world that we’re all living in today. We’re all spending more and more time in more and more places on the web, mobile and beyond. This presents unique challenges, but also immense opportunity.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I don’t like saying a job was the “worst job” since I’ve gained experience, knowledge and perspective from every job I’ve had. That goes all the way from being a landscaper when I was younger (extremely hard and long days) to an investment banker (also hard and long days, but in a decidedly different way). Some of the lessons that I’ve learned throughout the journey are the value of hard work, persistence, listening to and respecting others and the importance of being the spark for the change that you want to see. Some of these lessons came from models that I saw work and others came from poor models that didn’t work.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have launched our early product even faster. I’m a perfectionist by nature and that caused us to wait longer and develop more than we initially needed to. That said, I’m sure if I started again and then answered this question I’d have yet another choice that I’d make differently. That’s the nature of growth and evolution.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Listen. There’s an incredible wealth of knowledge from your customers/users, your team, your investors and even unaffiliated people. Your job is to process all that knowledge and turn it into actions and decisions.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m not sure how worthwhile giving away an idea really is. There are millions of ideas out there – execution is the differentiator. Go execute!
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
Talking from a personal perspective, I absolutely love Instagram. It’s easy to use, simple and fun. At this point it goes without saying, but I’ve also grown to rely on Twitter so much more in the last year. I credit Dave Tisch with pushing me into the platform. I didn’t appreciate how powerful it was both for business and personal use until I invested a bit of time. I’ve now all but abandoned Facebook and get valuable content and insights from Twitter every day.
From a pure business perspective, we love using Pivotal Tracker. It’s a great tool for project and product management and has done wonders to increase our team’s productivity and efficiency.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Sadly, as an English major I rarely read these days, which isn’t a good thing at all and something that I’m working to change. Reading is so critical, but I find myself caught up in more articles and day-to-day publications. That said, I’m going to reach back a bit to a book that many may have already read, The Little Prince. The book is so simple yet the lessons are timeless and masterfully written.
What’s on your playlist?
Bouncing around a lot right now, but Jose Gonzalez/Junip, Iron & Wine, Miles Davis, M83, Death Cab for Cutie, Feist and Drake. Yes, I know, random. And there’s much more! This changes depending on the week that you ask me.
If you weren’t working on CrowdTwist, what would you be doing?
Working on building a different business, but that’s hard to imagine at the moment.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @shivsingh: Great perspective on the social and digital marketing landscape. A real thought leader.
- @jaltucher: Frank and honest thoughts on life, startups and beyond. Very insightful.
- @LilFischNYC: Found out about this blog recently and love it! Inspiring and beautiful.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Yesterday at the office. We try to have fun and keep it light whenever we can!
Who is your hero?
Richard Branson. He lives his life with as much vigor and passion as he puts into his business. A true model for balance.
What’s the hardest part about starting a company?
Taking the leap. Reid Hoffman once said that starting a company is like jumping off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down. You’re never going to have all the answers or any guarantee of success before you get started. There is a large divide between an idea and a business and you need to cross it.
What is one piece of advice you’d give other entrepreneurs?
Starting a company is hard and it’s a long journey. Don’t believe what you read in the press – success doesn’t come overnight. It’s important to stay focused and persistent, but most of all, make sure you always have balance in your life. There needs to be more to life than just work and it’s particularly easy to lose sight of that when you’re fully dedicated to executing your own vision.
CrowdTwist Website: www.crowdtwist.com
Irving Fain on Twitter: @ifain