I believe that ideas are cheap and execution is everything. The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is to accept failure as a lesson. I fail everyday and it’s a good thing, I’ve learned to embrace it.
Where did the idea for Alley come from?
Alley is a community of entrepreneurs, artists, and creators. Alley provides a collaborative workspace and hosts a variety of events that foster meaningful connections. The idea of Alley came about around the same time that the New York City startup ecosystem was booming. Our first location was in Midtown and was one of the first coworking spaces to launch there. We wanted to bring access to the budding ecosystem in the heart of New York City. We wanted to open up a space where people from anywhere in the five boroughs could have easy access to. Once we launched, we were at maximum occupancy thirty days later. To celebrate this awesome win, we hosted a party at our office that had a line going down 7th Ave. (Imagine waiting two hours to get into a party in an office building. I knew then and there that we were on to something super special!)
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am not a believer of the whole work/balance life thing, especially when you are trying to grow a new business. I believe in working your ass off so that can relax later. I wake up, get dressed, and head over to the office and spend most of my day there working into the night. My main focus is growing the business. I’m lucky enough to have people to help me do that. Our awesome and talented team is managed by our COO & cofounder Nsi Obotetukudo. Nsi is the backbone of the ops here and we have a relationship where we call ourselves “Mr. Outside” and “Mr. Inside.” Most of my day is focused on the “outside” part of the business, meaning growth and partnership opportunities whereas Nsi is focused on the “inside”, meaning internal operations. We make it productive by dividing and conquering with the help and support of our amazing team.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I believe that ideas are cheap and execution is everything. The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is to accept failure as a lesson. I fail everyday and it’s a good thing, I’ve learned to embrace it. It helps being in a community surrounded by very intelligent people that can help test your assumptions. Ideas come to life with a whole ton of grit, thick skin, and conviction to make the idea work.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The trend of a shared economy is exciting to me. I love products and services that the average person did not have access to and now with new logistical innovations, it makes these services accessible for more and more people. On top of that making, it a financial opportunity for some of these people is really amazing. I love talking to Uber drivers about how much better their lives are and how free they feel with creating their own hours etc. I love renting dope spots from AirBnB. I also love providing office space for people that do not have to sign their life away!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am an email freak. I check my email more than I should, being honest. But, this allows me to give a level of attention since I am able to respond to people very quickly. People appreciate quick communication. Meaningful relationships are essential to me and if I can show people how much I care about them by responding to them right away, it only helps strengthen relationships.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was a waiter for four years and honestly, it was one of the worst experiences. As much as I hated it, it taught me the biggest lessons in life. It taught me humility, how to serve people, and how to communicate with them. It also taught me how to deal with difficult people, which has proved to be one of the most valuable things I’ve learned. We are going to deal with difficult people our entire lives The better you get at dealing with those types of people, the better off you’ll be.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would learn how to code.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I can not tell you how valuable it is to accept failure as a lesson. It sounds generic, trust me I know, but building something from the ground up is one the most difficult things to do. You have to be willing to sacrifice more than you ever thought and pour yourself into the idea to make it happen, and make constant mistakes on the way without getting too discouraged. I fail over and over again, and I embrace it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
I cannot stress enough the value in authentic, meaningful relationships. If you are the type that can only focus on what you want and not about the goals and values of others your product (more then likely) is going to suck. Whenever I take a meeting my strategy is to find out how I can create value for the other person/organization. I put my needs behind theirs and it does wonders. If our businesses do not sync at least you have a made a good friend(s).
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I fail everyday and I overcome it by waking up and doing something different. The best way to get over a failed experiment is to start a new one.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I use dating apps. After reading this you probably wonder who the hell would date me! I always love the idea of a dating CRM so you can manage all the different apps on the market. This app would aggregate all the apps you are using so you can manage communication, calendars and feedback across all platforms. Think Hootsuite for Bumble and Tinder. This may sound bad but the fact is if you are using one app you are probably using multiple. Someone please build this. I will take 5%…thanks!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought over the ear headphones. I normally would never wear them, but I noticed it’s functions as a “do not disturb”. It totally works!
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I think one of the most exciting web services/softwares I use is slack. It nailed collaborative communication. We use it for our team and to manage our different locations.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. I am a big fan of stoicism and looking at issues as an opportunity to learn and grow. This books nails it!
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Marc Ecko, his book “Unlable” is amazing. I had the opportunity to hang out with Marc on multiple occasions and he has given me such great advice. @marcecko
I am a HUGE fan of Eric Ries and all his work with lean startup methodology. He is one of the pioneers. I have met with him several times and he is very generous with advice and his time. I have even interviewed him for Entrepreneur Magazine. @ericries
As a lover of all things creative and awesome, I get a lot of inspiration from Amy Schumer. I think she is one of the hardest working people around. @amyschumer
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.