To me, it’s really about planning the night before so that every morning gets off to a great start without a hitch.
Joel Schwartz is the founder of Parlor.me, a voice-based social networking app that offers a fun way to discover, chat, and engage with new likeminded people and communities near you. Whether you want to use the phone to plan your next night out with local friends or conduct a conference call with participants from across the globe, the app can connect you in seconds, for free.
Where did the idea for Parlor.me come from?
I have always been very social and outgoing. Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, the preferred and only method of communication was by calling someone. Watching the app world explode, it seemed that voice was being left out of the social arena. Thus, I created Parlor.me as a way to have a verbal, one-on-one conversation with someone about a shared topic of interest.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
From 6am-7am I get up, shower, eat breakfast, and then read news/emails. From 7am-8pm, I help with getting all the kids awake, dressed, fed, and out the door, myself included. From 9am-10am I send and reply to emails. Then, from 10am-2pm, I do product work with my development team and eat lunch somewhere around noon. From 2pm-4pm, I work on business development (mostly conference calls) then head home. Family time is from 5pm-8pm, where we have fun, do homework, eat supper, shower, and get the kids to bed. We have a “no screen policy” in our house during these hours. From 9pm-1am, I continue product development work and emails and then setup for the next day. My wife lets me get away with this so long as I’m all hers Saturday and Sunday.
How do you bring ideas to life?
One way the Parlor.me team taps into creativity is by staying up-to-date with the latest in our industry. Consistently reading about the latest tools that startups use and discussing new software and technologies with my team helps us think up new ideas and ways to be more productive. To be truly creative and ahead of the app game, it is important to make innovations fast, fun, and workable. When we first started, we were using an internal messaging application because it was cool and we can build stuff like that. But when we saw a company and product like Slack, it didn’t take us but a few hours to jump on what they have built.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The app stores and, more importantly, on iOS there has been an across-the-board acceptance of social apps that allow a more intimate connection between two people. Just two years ago, 75% of apps in the Top-100 Social category were for communicating with people you already know, like Facebook, Skype, GroupMe, LinkedIn, etc. Now, over 75% of the Top-100 apps are for meeting and making new friends.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
To me, it’s really about planning the night before so that every morning gets off to a great start without a hitch. If I have to spend my morning preparing for a meeting, then that will effect my morning emails. So I will make sure to have any meeting, travel, or family needs taken care of the night before.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
For a couple of months, I was working for a high-end cosmetic line that’s sold in every major retail store. The experience was great, as I had to land meetings with major buyers and compete for inches against other brands. Going into the job, I pitched my sales abilities as a guy who could sell sand at a beach. After a few months, I realized that I don’t have a passion for cosmetics, which translated into lackluster sales. That was the last time I worked on anything I wasn’t overly passionate about.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Parlor.me is one big hurdle, since we are building something from scratch that no one has ever done before.There are always mistakes seemingly being made, yet they lead to better outcomes and valuable lessons learned. The most recent example was spending many months migrating our infrastructure to Parse, which is owned by Facebook. Facebook decided to shut them down and gave everyone a few months to migrate. But the good news is that Facebook gave the $80 million dollars they spent on Parse over to us as open source code, which will be a lot less to maintain and all ours. This whole ordeal taught me to always ensure there is room for flexibility and look at the bright side in every situation.”
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Make sure you are using the latest tools available. In all areas, whether it’s design, development, or team collaboration, there are constantly new tools being made available. The best (or I should say most minimally responsible) time to start testing a new tool is when there are a handful of larger startups that have publicly validated it. A few such tools that we have been using since their early days are Slack, Invision app, and Trello.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Maintaining positive, energetic, and personal relationships with all of our core team members. Having those relationships have always made certain that everyone is putting in 110%..
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There is a toothbrush that has Blue indicator bristles, which fade halfway to alert users when it’s time for a new one. I asked our family orthodontist if he thought having braces for kids that changed colors if they are not brushed every 12 hours would be a big seller and he concurred. Additionally, I asked whether a miniature charm that snaps onto the braces the same way the color bands do would also sell and he then started asking me to look into it more. I like being creative even when taking my kids to the dentist. His final comments were that braces are a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide that has seen almost zero innovation for kids since color bands were introduced 20 years ago.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We upgraded to the most awesome mouse ever–the Logitech MX Master for only $79. I don’t think people realize just how much more comfortable using a mouse hours a day can be for under $100.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We love using Slack.com, Invisionapp.com, and Trello.com. They are intuitive, fast, and work flawlessly.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Having 5 kids under 11 years old doesn’t allow me to get in too much cover-to-cover book reading for myself. But, surprisingly enough, I have yet to meet a fellow parent or entrepreneur that has attempted to read “Fox in Socks” by Dr. Seuss and didn’t have a great time all the while failing miserably at finishing it without mistakes. Makes sense that a guy who created a talking app likes a tongue-twisting book.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Here is a great example of how employees should be treated. It’s nice when you can buy them anything and everything, like the top tech companies even while those same companies have been found to be colluding to their employees’ disadvantage behind closed doors. Its about when you don’t have funds as a startup or you do have funds and you are put in a tight situation. I learned a lot from the amazing story of Aaron Feuerstein, CEO of Malden Mills.
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