Mike Rizkalla is an Award-Winning Creative Leader in the Technology / Robotics industry with experience in organizations ranging from startup to $75M global businesses, with proven performance managing revenue goals up to $10M, operational budgets of up to $16M, and capital expense budgets of up to $2.5M. He is a capable mentor with a track record of attracting, recruiting, and advising teams.
Where did the idea for Snorble come from?
I’d been working in robotics and coming up with engaging machines for many years and my son never slept during all those years. He used to wake me up every night and we’d continue the song and dance of trying to get him back to bed and back to sleep. One night from perhaps 1am until 4am, I couldn’t get back to sleep and I thought there had to be something that would make this less painful. I searched ‘how to get my toddler to sleep’ on the internet and 180 million results came up. As I started to navigate what possible solutions there might be, I saw there was not a really good holistic solution that dealt with the complexity of children not sleeping. So, I started to connect the dots to create this magical solution that we have with Snorble to establish healthy habits and good routines for kids.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts with getting my children ready to go to school and then jumps into a series of meetings and the way that I make them really productive is to affirm the value that I bring to my team in all our meetings. What I do is celebrate everything that we’re really good at in our meetings and help them drive each other by feeling really great about everything that we’re doing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
What I try to do is not bring all my ideas because I have a lot of ideas. The best plan, like many entrepreneurs is to talk yourself out of investing in all your ideas because the amount of effort it takes to bring something to life is incredible. That’s very true when you’re working on something that never existed before. I basically take the biggest risks and challenges I would face from a business and product development perspective and see if we can eliminate those risks and remove those challenges. If I’m able to do that and all the stars align then I know I have something special.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There’s a huge focus right now on social good and how you can create a sustainable business by creating social good. That is becoming more prominent and there are investors who are so focused on impact investing, so the fact that capital is starting to line up with what people want to do from a social good perspective is really exciting.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I put my phone away at bedtime and I don’t look at it until my kids are at school.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Never let someone close a door on you. Just because someone has disregarded your idea, that doesn’t mean you can’t go back to that person and re-represent yourself. Those first doors you choose are often the right ones and are worth revisiting rather than knocking on other doors that weren’t your first choice.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A meeting filled with laughter is still productive. If everyone is joyous, there’s value in that even if you don’t meet your objectives.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Pause before you respond. Take a moment to listen and don’t jump in to interrupt someone. The initial reaction, if you disagree with something, should be to ask a question.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Lean into the creative. There’s no such thing as a minimal viable product. That means you’re doing the base level to get approval from your audience. An entrepreneur should always be trying to excite an audience and you don’t do that by settling for the base minimum. I think that’s the difference in how we succeed.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I had a concept that I fell in love with around social gaming, entertainment and robotics and was unable to raise capital around it. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t get how good this idea was. I had created a product that was so innovative and covered so many categories that there were no investors prepared to feel secure and risk-averse in all those different areas. I had an advisor who helped me see that, so we reviewed the idea and that actually led to the creation of Snorble.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A professional wrestling camp for toddlers. If anyone wants to start one, I’m in.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a guitar rack and am now bringing my guitars out of storage to put them into my music room for the first time. (Mike is a former professional musician who was the guitarist in one of Canada’s most popular punk bands.)
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Slack. It cuts down on my emails and it connects me to my team all day long.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend the Snorble book on the Snorclepine. It’s the story of a cuddly character from our land of Lullaboo who invests time and energy to find a piece of bread to eat, which I think is essentially the journey that we’re all on. Aren’t we all chasing a piece of bread?
What is your favorite quote?
“Whoever is happy will make others happy too.” – Anne Frank
- Resilience is key to the success of an entrepreneur, but not at all costs. It is important to know when you’re barking up the right tree.
- A sense of humor and positive interaction with your team far outweighs a high-pressure approach or a negative reaction.
- Find time for your family and to enjoy your personal life rather than become tunnel-visioned when it comes to your projects and initiatives.
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.