Peter Hyman

You have to begin before you can fail or succeed. Ideas are worthless unless they brought to life.


Peter Hyman began his career in journalism as an editor and writer for publications including Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and New York magazine. He is the author of several books and his writing has been collected in a number of anthologies, including The Best American Essays (2010). From there he ventured into advertising and content strategy, working as a creative director for agencies and large corporate retailers, including Macy’s, where he was the director of copy and editorial. He currently runs Moonshot Ventures, an e-commerce incubator that owns a portfolio of specialized retail properties. Moonshot’s flagship investment is SmokeSmith Gear, which offers luxury smoking gear, smart devices and accessories.

Where did the idea for Moonshot Ventures come from?

Moonshot Ventures grew out of my experience working for one of the biggest retailers in the world, and recognizing that their size and scale was a distinct disadvantage. In the world of Amazon and Wal Mart the only way to make money online is to be very narrow, deep and focused. So we started Moonshot Ventures as a way to fund, incubate and launch specialized e-commerce businesses. This idea was born out of research and data, but the actual execution only came when we put rubber to road and launched a site for our first retailer, a luxury smoke gear and accessories store called SmokeSmith Gear. That put a stake in the ground and committed us to starting.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My wife and I wake up and get our kids out the door to school. Then I walk my 12-year-old dog. I’m at my office by 8:00 a.m. and from there the day is full of intrigue. And also emails, order fulfillment, marketing plans, conference calls vendors along with all the content creation, SEO and planning for our businesses. I try to exercise as well, and do find time to eat. I make it productive by creating a daily to do list and sticking to it, come hell or high water. It’s easy to fall down rabbit holes, and I have to discipline myself to stay on task.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By making a concerted effort to let go of perfection. My partners have been instrumental in helping with this. I am often trapped by small details. But as an entrepreneur you have to accept that nothing is ever completely done and that sometimes 80% is all something will be. Good enough is sometimes all you can do. From there you have to execute, test it and learn. Our process of bringing ideas to life is to be less precious and less perfect.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Voice activated search and smart home appliances. Our portfolio of sites and our DNA is rooted in technology, and we are built for the consumer who is sitting at home and who speaks his or her desired product search into the television. We think we fare well in the technology race within our niche industries.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Turning off my phone between the hours of 12pm and 4pm each day. Text messages are a productivity killer.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Take more advantage of the actual academic parts of college. Read more. Worry less. Begin investing at an earlier age. Spend more time with your parents.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

The Detroit Lions will win a Super Bowl within my lifetime.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

To just get started. You have to begin before you can fail or succeed. Ideas are worthless unless they brought to life.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

The single biggest thing we have done to grow our business is to continuously create good, original and educational content, day in and day out, for all of sites. Content is the key to SEO, and SEO is the key to e-commerce, especially as you are building a brand and trying to gain name recognition. People think content is easy to create and that words are cheap. That’s one of the reason it’s so difficult to make money as a writer in the digital realm. But good content is very hard to make.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When we started this business we excitedly ran headfirst toward a platform that was very elegant and which offered us the chance for clean, minimalistic design of all our sites. But it was not very e-commerce friendly. It was not built for large amounts of inventory or converting customers. We had to make the difficult decision to migrate our portfolio of sites over to Shopify. It was painful but it also made my partner and I realize we were being too precious and insular. We overcame it by accepting the reality and pushing forward.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There is money to be made in drones, and the Internet is lousy with bad information on drones. Somebody could make money starting a website with well-organized information and products aimed at beginner and intermediate users who are under the age of 15.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought my kids a fancy pull up bar that also has a trapeze swing. They use it to mimic American Ninja Warrior and to do gymnastics. But, as a byproduct of its existence, I do a few pull ups every time I walk under it.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

One tool I use often is an SEO keyword research service called Long Tail Pro. I use it to keep abreast of key search terms, trends and product movements within our industry, and to organically fine tune our SEO. If you are in the business of specialized niche retail you need to know what people are looking for and how often they are seeking it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck” by Mark Manson. I recommend this because it is a business and life advice book but it has a contrarian point of view, so it’s not full of clichéd wisdom or generic platitudes. I think most of us hold onto things too tightly. This is a book about letting go, which is the key to liberation.

What is your favorite quote?

As an ex-journalist I have files full of inspiring quotes because quoting great writers is easier than actually doing the writing yourself. But if forced to choose one I will go with a line from the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, which succinctly summarizes starting a business:
Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Key learnings:

• You have to get started to succeed. Many good ideas simply die on the vine. Try something. Try anything. Try and fail. But just try.

• Perfectionism is the enemy of execution. Let go of making it perfect, and just put it out there. It just has to be good enough.

• The hardest part is getting started. Once you take the leap you will be too busy to worry about where or how you will land.


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