Phil Michaelson is a media fan, blogger and entrepreneur. He is best known for his company, KartMe, which helps people securely store and easily share favorite recipes, links, travel tips, and more from home, work or a mobile phone. He started KartMe while trying to manage recommendations of books, hotels, and restaurants. The company began when he was awarded a fellowship while attending Harvard Business School. Phil graduated….though some professors and investors encouraged him to drop out like non-Harvard grads Gates and Zuckerberg.
Phil began his career with IBM, where he worked on their corporate strategy and helped clients use technology to solve problems. He then worked for Dun & Bradstreet, owner of hoovers.com, helping them to figure how to grow. He has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and B.A. from Princeton University. Mostly though, Phil likes enjoying new things, whether ideas, restaurants, books, movies or live sports.
What are you working on right now?
KartMe.com just raised seed funding, so I’m focused on improving and marketing the product. KartMe.com helps people share their favorites. If you’re looking for a crock pot recipe or kids gift, today you can browse more than 1,500 Karts of favorites. A Kart is an online list you can share or use on-the-go. For products in your Karts, our technology automatically find you deals on books and toys. For travel tips in your Karts, our technology automatically puts maps on your phone. We’ve gotten two staff picks on our mobile app from Apple.
3 Trends that excite you?
The first is smartphone penetration. There are so many opportunities both outside and inside the home on smartphones. People are playing with their phones in the living room and being productive in the kitchen. And they’re looking things up on phones on the street and inside stores. KartMe plans to provide a central spot for all the things you’re finding in each of these locations. The second is digital information sharing. People are getting more and more comfortable sharing their finds on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. KartMe will help you when you want to share a list or poll via these platforms. The third is what Seth Godin calls the demise of the gatekeeper. I love seeing what KartMe members do with our tools to help you easily spread your ideas.
How do you bring ideas to life?
To bring an idea to life, you need to get beyond the idea. Ideas are pretty much worthless. It’s what you do with the idea that matters. Try things. Fail often. Fail cheaply. Put up a Facebook fan page or Google form and see what response you get. Start offering your service manually via email and only invest to automate if it sticks. Just get something out the door quickly in order to start bringing your idea to life. It’s ok if it doesn’t look good. Just do it.
What is one mistake that you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
In launching KartMe.com, I’ve learned that simplicity of the product is crucial. Every feature adds complexity to not only the end user experience, but also to the jobs to be done by our graphic designers and programmers. Now every time a member requests a new feature, I try to find a current feature to remove.
What is one idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Help consumers communicate with companies via mobile phones. Every company wants to hear from their customers. At the same time, the majority of iPhone apps are games. People are using their apps to waste time. What if you could take surveys on your phone while in line, and get a discount when you get to the counter? What if after your meal you could take a survey, and get a discount for a free coffee? What about loyalty programs for scanning a bar code in front of the Coke display at Wal Mart? I think mobile presents many new opportunities to let customers, stores and marketers interact.
Why did you start KartMe?
I was losing links, forgetting book recommendations, misplacing recipes and repeatedly searching for deals. At the same time, friends were always asking me for recommendations — and I always want people to be able to experience the best. So, I started building a free service where people can keep in one spot all the great things they’re finding. KartMe’s technology then gets to working finding you deals, so you can experience the best at a low price.
As a New York sports fan, how did you tolerate spending time in Boston to get your M.B.A.?
Yeah, that was tough. Early into my time in Boston, the Giants upset the Patriots to win the Superbowl. So, even later in 2008 when the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly 15 years, I still had that fond memory of the Superbowl win. Also, Harvard Business School was an incredible experience. Around 35 percent of the class was international and the professors were great, so there were many non sports related topics to discuss.