Learn from mentors who have seen a lot of action.
Michael Gleason is the founder of InMyArea. They provide a localized home services comparison shopping site – a one stop shop where you can compare prices and purchase high speed internet, cable, home security, and many other services. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to connect a new home, reconnect an old home, or save with a better price, InMyArea.com can help simplify your search for utilities and home services.
Where did the idea for InMyArea come from?
A few years ago, I bought a new home in Newport Beach, Calif. Prior to moving, I researched cable TV and internet providers in my area — specifically, I did a Google search for our new zip code: “internet 92660.” The sites I found online contained inaccurate and limited information hosted on spammy doorway pages with bait-and-switch offers.
I decided to build a home services comparison shopping brand with the best and most accurate information we can get, showing all known providers available in that area, whether we earned revenue or referral commissions or not. The comparison shopping data was served initially on a zip code level, in a Travelocity or Orbitz style for ease of comparison, rather than require the user to click and navigate many pages of individual brand provider offers. Today, the data is fairly accurate at the address level, with continued innovation and improvements always in process. We still list many more providers than we have authorized dealer agreements with.
We also realized our users shopping for internet wanted related home services like cable TV or home security, so we began adding verticals. There are several verticals listed at this time, with hundreds more in development. Each vertical is a geographically fragmented industry where data science can add value to online shopping and comparison.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
By nature, I am undisciplined as I believe creative ideas and innovation live in the unstructured realm; however, once the clock is ticking on investor funding, discipline and execution are key. About 80 percent of my day is spent on product development (SCRUM-based), user experiments, and analytics. The other 20 percent is spent learning new things and seeking inspiration for creative thought.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The best ideas seem to evolve in the shower, while sleeping, or in group meetings, with not only the product team, but also other teams, including sales, customer service, and finance. We add and track new ideas in sprint backlogs, part of the SCRUM process, and prioritize based on agile needs or resources.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The “Internet of Me” experience and how it’s impacted by big data and artificial intelligence.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I push! It doesn’t make my wife and kids happy at home, and many times, I’m not the most popular at work, but many things get hung up on “the last mile” and just need a good push past the mindset of “It can’t be done” or “We’re waiting on something” that really isn’t mission-critical.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Trust your instincts: Know when to hold and when to run.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I am classically trained as a physicist and chemist and don’t believe in knowing the absolute truth, unless it’s a construct within a model, like mathematics. That being said, I believe the Rams are the best football team since they moved back to Los Angeles and I bought season seats! On a serious note, I believe the public financial markets could expand for much longer, as we are in the beginning of the largest “industrial revolution” humans have seen yet. Most of my colleagues believe otherwise, citing this as the longest expansion in history. Based on my view, as an investor and builder of technology, I am bullish on the future.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never give up, even if it involves countless failures, pivots, plan Bs, etc.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Learn from mentors who have seen a lot of action. One advisor boxed me in and had me plan our growth with detailed line items rather than just analyze it categorically and in terms of business drivers. In the end, we pushed our business drivers harder with more trust and conviction that they were the right ones, based on our line-item growth exercises. It was the difference between knowing our business and really knowing our business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
For starters, I have had several failures as an entrepreneur, but the most prominent would be in 2005: personally investing all of my money to develop a technology “before its time” with no real plan or discipline, just a vision. At that time, I would tell guys senior to me in business that I didn’t want to let planning and process get in the way of making money, and then I lost it all. Today, there are highly successful and publicly traded companies that eventually built the technology when the time was right — and with better management.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think this is a disruptive idea, and because we don’t currently have the time or resources to develop this, I will share it for the greater good. The idea is to use a neural network or other learning AI and feed it Google Earth image data to identify specific geographic features and cross this data with demand side platforms for marketing purposes.
For example, it would be fairly easy to identify homes with and without solar panels on the roof and build a data set with geocoordinates. These coordinates could be used for geofencing targeted ad offers for products and services. A company like Solar City knows where it has existing solar customers and can remarket them the Powerwall or send offers to neighbors who don’t yet have solar. Imagine if you had their proprietary customer data and all of their competitors’ customer data and sold related products or marketed their neighbors as a solar aggregator. This business idea can be applied to thousands of other products and services, not just in the U.S., but worldwide. If Elon Musk reads this and wants to invest in the idea with me, that would be awesome.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
It was more than $100, and it was my recent seed investment in Blast.com. I love the founders as much as I love the business model. Personally, the greatest joy in spending comes from giving to causes I care about, then investing in great companies, and lastly in personal consumption for me and my family.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
On a daily basis, I log into and use many different web services, but the most valuable is our proprietary system, customized for real-time reporting and analysis. The single most valuable third-party solution would be Google Analytics. The platform I enjoy the most is Wolfram’s Mathematica. This is embarrassing and will date me as a .com-era guy, but I still look at Statcounter every day for many of our online properties. I like to see the individual user behavior as if my site were brick-and-mortar, where I could watch individual shoppers come in, browse, and shop. I might watch up to 1,000 individual users a day and learn deep insights I might not see otherwise in percentages, graphs, behavior flow charts, and stats of “modern day” off-the-shelf analytics solutions. I like to use both types of solutions and see it both big and small.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
“Good to Great” by James Collins. Because I was a science major and not a business major, I missed the case studies analysis and found this book to be the Cliffs Notes. It’s also very inspirational to me, and I still rely on it today when making some tough decisions.
What is your favorite quote?
I don’t have a favorite quote, but my team and I are nerds who often recite move lines, and because we hire so many veterans, they’re most often from the movie “Stripes.”