James Dickerson – Co-Founder of Leap

[quote style=”boxed”]I think the key to bringing ideas to life is to surround yourself with great people who can help you execute. I want to surround myself with people who take action and will dive in 100% with me to bring something to the world.[/quote]

James Dickerson is the co-founder of Leap, the first mobile app for social challenges. His passions are tech startups and entrepreneurship. Last year, he was 1 of 5 startup founders to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative and recently completed one of the top startup accelerator programs in the country. In 2008, he graduated from Miami University of Ohio and completed the world’s toughest outdoor survival school. Before diving into the world of entrepreneurship, he worked in sales and business development at his family’s company.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on Leap. It’s like if Instagram got competitive. It allows users to create challenges, invite their Facebook friends and compete by snapping photos. We like to think of it as the first mobile app for social group challenges.

Where did the idea for Leap come from?

It was a combination of a couple different things. Before Leap, we had a product called Wellthy, which was a corporate wellness app to get employees more engaged in their health. We had various health challenges that employees could participate in. We talked to users and customer a lot and learned that people didn’t necessarily want to compete with their co-workers. They wanted to compete with their friends around the topics and goals that interested them. We also learned that we had to build a mobile product. This was really the foundation for the idea of changing directions and building Leap.

What does your typical day look like?

We are a team of 3. We work together and live together. We have a workstation with our laptops and monitors set up in our house and we’re all usually down there working by about 9 AM. I try to exercise about 4 days a week, so at some point in the afternoon I take a break from emails, phone calls, blogging, brainstorming, testing the product and learning how to code to hit the gym and clear my head.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I think the key to bringing ideas to life is to surround yourself with great people who can help you execute. I want to surround myself with people who take action and will dive in 100% with me to bring something to the world. There are a lot of people who talk a big game, but few who actually ship. It’s also really important to share your idea with the world as soon as you have it and then when you have something to show for it, like a prototype, make sure you aren’t afraid to release it as early as possible. I really like the following quote from Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn: “if you aren’t ashamed of your product, you’ve shipped too late.”

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The quantified self movement is really exciting. As technology progresses, it is allowing folks to track and take advantage of data in ways that can help them improve their lives. For instance, Fitbit captures people’s steps and provides them with an easy to use social interface to track progress and make improvements. I think there are lots of opportunities for the movement to go mainstream and improve worldwide health and productivity.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

One of my first jobs was working in the warehouse at my family’s business. I had to scour the warehouse for damaged packages, sweep, clean and deliver products. It was definitely the bottom of the totem pole, but it taught me the importance of gaining the respect of your co-workers and being humble.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have learned web development skills and started launching ideas when I was younger. I’m just now learning to code and it’s a valuable skill that I wish I had years ago.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I have a great network of mentors that I chat with on a regular basis. They’ve been such a huge help to me that I can’t even begin to describe the impact and importance great mentors can have on entrepreneurs. Also, I practice pitching all the time. It’s important for entrepreneurs to be able to deliver a great elevator pitch so that others can quickly and easily understand their ideas. Go to networking events, talk to your mentors and practice pitching whenever possible.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Birchbox for nutritional supplements.

Tell us a secret.

I go see movies by myself about once a week. It’s a nice and relaxing escape.

What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?

  • Twitter: There isn’t a better tool for keeping up with the tech world. It has also allowed me to connect with people that I would have had a hard time connecting with otherwise.
  • Google Docs: Our team uses it all the time. It’s a great collaboration tool.
  • Console.fm: I’m a huge house music fan. This is the soundtrack that keeps me focused and working.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is an essential for entrepreneurs.

What’s on your playlist?

I stream music from Console.fm or Turntable.fm. It has to be electronic.

If you weren’t working on Leap, what would you be doing?

I’ve got a few other ideas. I’d definitely be launching some kind of startup.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

James Altucher, Julien Smith and Chris Dixon. The first 2 are amazing bloggers and are extremely motivating; they have “just do it” perspectives on life and don’t really care what other people think. They’re also surprisingly accessible. I included Chris Dixon because he has one of the smartest perspectives on tech startups out there and is a great blogger.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Yesterday, at this video:

Who is your hero?

My dad. He’s successful, humble, open minded, curious and generous, among other things. He’s always encouraged me to follow my dreams and would support me no matter what. We view the world in similar ways, which has allowed us to have a great relationship. I am very fortunate to have such a supportive family.

What was one of the biggest moments of your career?

Last year, we were 1 of 5 startups in the country invited to pitch at the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago. Policy makers, well known investors and famous entrepreneurs were in the room. It was an amazing experience and since then, I have not been afraid to get on stage anywhere.

What’s one of your most defining personal experiences?

I completed the world’s toughest outdoor survival school. I spent 30 days with 7 other people living in the backcountry of Utah with a blanket, a knife and a poncho. Learning to live off the land was an amazing experience. It was definitely the toughest experience of my life and at times I didn’t think I could make it. I learned that the body can go much further than the mind thinks it can and that if we push ourselves, anything is possible.


James Dickerson Email: [email protected]
Leap Website:
Leap on Twitter: @leap