Being responsive to others makes you more productive because you don’t pass up opportunities that may exist.
Keyvan “Kevin” Samini has led innovative companies that have created radical and disruptive technologies. He began his career as an attorney representing businesses, particularly in the technology industry. He then transitioned his career from representing organizations to leading them as an executive and director. He is currently the CEO and co-founder of Pitchtime. As CEO, Kevin Samini see his role as a facilitator, driving Pitchtime toward strategic growth. As he states, his goal is to identify a path that the company may take in its constant effort to remain relevant.
Kevin Samini earned his Master’s in Finance from Harvard University and his MBA from the University of Southern California. Keyvan also holds a JD from the Ohio State University, College of Law, and a Bachelor’sof Science degree in Economics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
As an entrepreneur, I am always looking for new and exciting opportunities that will create value. Sometimes opportunities present themselves in the form of people and their potential, not products. I saw great potential in my co-founder. His experience in marketing and content delivery, as well as our joint ability to envision technology that would deliver value to businesses created the opportunity that sparked the creation of Pitchtime.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day early with a review of the prior days’ financial and business news. My go-to newspaper is the Financial Times. It is unmatched for quality and breadth of information. Then I review my task list for the day ahead of me. By 10 a.m. I have made all calls and sent all emails that did not get a response the prior day. I will tell you that on an average day I spend about 2-3 hours answering emails and texts. Then I meet with different project managers to get a clear understanding of any anticipated problems that might result in a delay of product development. I reach out to engineers who are testing products to see if there are any concerns I should be prepared for. We then have meetings with our marketing teams and at least one of our strategic partners. At this point I start to reach out to companies I have identified in my morning financial and business news research as being potential strategic partners or customers. It’s important to open a path of communication to these organizations as soon as possible. I typically interact with at least two investors on any given day. Then I turn to reviewing ideas raised by the tech team for new products. At about 8 pm, due to the time difference, we hold our conference with our technology team abroad. By the end of the day its about 8:30 pm. I typically end up in bed at about midnight or 1 am.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life with lots of help! I gather a team of talented people in the relevant industry and pitch the idea to them. If the idea is not received well, then its over. If it is positive, I start a plan to move forward. This includes assessing product market fit. Product market fit is not always easy to identify, so we frequently involve third parties who can provide us with an objective assessment of the likelihood of a product’s success. The next step is putting together a well qualified team to establish and execute on product development milestones. It sounds easy enough, but putting together a cohesive and productive team is one of the greatest challenges an executive will face.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The use of video technology in education is an exciting trend. People who would never have had access to a high school or college education now have that as a direct result of video technology. This newly carved path to quality education is rapidly increasing the skill set and standard of living of people all around the globe.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I always respond to people who reach out to me, and I do it as soon as possible. Being responsive to others makes you more productive because you don’t pass up opportunities that may exist. But that is not the only reason to be responsive. The people calling may need a referral or help locating a new job, or maybe they are simply facing some type of personal crisis. I am shocked by the complete lack of professionalism you see with individuals who simply do not respond to calls or personal emails. I consider it a direct reflection on their character.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would definitely tell younger Kevin Samini not to regret failure. Instead, regret NOT trying.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Steve Jobs was not a genius like many people praise him to have been. However, he was intelligent, and he persevered. I believe that to be absolutely true.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Work for trust, or work to seek and develop trust with staff as well as customers.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
You always have to analyze the competition and prepare to make sacrifices and changes. For example, if you are working with a technology where trends make it no longer viable, you have to be able to pivot in a different direction. If you don’t make the necessary sacrifices and changes, you will be swallowed whole by your competition.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure that I had experienced was launching a startup with more resources than I needed. Too many technologists, too much equipment, and too much space. I quickly realized that I needed to restructure the company. I had to let people go and operations had to be downsized. I will not make that mistake again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Focus on renewable energy. Whoever can develop a company around generating large amounts of energy from renewable sources will find success. It would be fantastic to see some radical innovation in the renewable energy industry.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
We have an adoptive family that we decided to support. The family lives in Costa Rica and the children have lived in abject poverty all of their lives. When we first adopted this family we took them shopping for clothes and household supplies. On our way back we stopped at Pappa John’s Pizza. They had never been in a pizza place and they had never eaten pizza. The cost of a medium cheese pizza was equal to what their father made in one week, so pizza was not an option in the normal course of this family’s life. It was amazing to see the joy in their eyes when they ate their first pizza. It was an unforgettable moment.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
My go-to software is Excel. I use it for many things, including financial modeling, creating graphs, and creating charts. It is a powerful program and one that I believe is an essential tool for business.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World, by Randall Stross.
This book lays out in full detail how years of failure and perseverance lead to success. The book goes to show that Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, was right when he said: “timing, perseverance, and tens years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.”
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is from Ray Goforth and it applies in all aspects of life, both personal and professional. He says: “There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world. Those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.”
- Always looks for exciting opportunities
- Persevere and don’t fear failure
- Work for trust
- Make a difference and help those in poverty
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.