[quote style=”boxed”]Before you start thinking about growing a business, you have to find out what purpose it is serving. [/quote]
Ronnie leads online consumer acquisition as a co-founder of Porch – the only consumer and social Internet marketplace that connects homeowners with the right home service professionals based on insights into who neighbors have used, project and cost history, and friend endorsements. Ronnie also heads search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and additional paid digital channels for Porch.com. Previously, he co-founded Thriva, then Camp Register, with Matt Ehrlichman – his roommate at Stanford University and current CEO of Porch.com.
Ronnie went on to start Google’s (GOOG) optimization team and spent 7 years building the team to over 500 people and expanding operations internationally. Post Google, Ronnie ran international search at Expedia (EXPE) including paid and earned. Most recently Ronnie led all of consumer acquisition for Wild Tangent.
Where did the idea for Porch come from?
The idea for Porch.com actually spawned from my friend and current Porch.com CEO Matt Ehrlichman in 2012. Matt and I were roommates in college and had worked together before so when he told me about the idea and about the core team he was bringing together – I was sold and we were off and running.
What does your typical day look like?
At the beginning of every week, I always look at my big priorities and make sure I have the most important things right at the top of the list. From there I try to limit the time I actually spend in my inbox, especially in the morning. It’s too easy to get preoccupied with the constant barrage of emails and pretty soon, you end up working on things that don’t really matter.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m really not afraid to do something and have it completely fail. It lets me act quickly when trying to bring something to life – I don’t focus on spending a large amount of time researching or on minor details. I get started, execute, look at the results, and let them direct where the idea needs to go. If my idea is not going to work, I would rather fail quickly than spend time and resources getting to that failure.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m actually really excited for the trend that will happen with television entertainment in the near future. It seems like its an industry that is lagging in regards to all the innovation happening around us – I think it could be significantly better. I think it is just waiting for someone or a company to step in and change everything.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?
One thing I always do to be productive is set time-bound activities for myself when I really need to get things done. Deadlines were always something that I had to be aware of in school and I felt that having them always worked well for me. Even if there isn’t a deadline for a project I’m working on – I’ll set one anyway just to create some urgency. On smaller projects, I’ll give myself an amount of time – say, an hour or so – to get as much done as I can before moving on to the next task.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
When I was in high school I worked for a company that delivered technology equipment. It was one of those jobs where you did the same thing every day – load up the truck, unload the truck, and repeat. The repetition was miserable! It learned pretty quickly that I get bored easily when it comes to doing repetitive tasks. One of the great things about working in the startup world is that there is always a new problem to solve challenge every day you walk in the door.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start again, I would have tried to move laterally more often early in my career. When I worked at Google and Expidia, I had opportunities to start new teams in different departments. I opted to stay on the path I was on, thinking it was my best option – but I feel that taking risks and having new opportunities may have helped me learn more and advance my career faster. When you are building a young company, you have to wear many different hats and having a broad experience can be helpful.
What is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am a little bit obsessed with saving time. Some might think it’s strange, but on a regular basis I will split test different routs for my commute to the office. I note the different routs, time of day, day of week, and a few other characteristics to optimize my commute. It might not be for everyone, but that extra time adds up!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Before you start thinking about growing a business, you have to find out what purpose it is serving. It’s basic, but talking to customers has played a big role in our decision making and simply knowing what to prioritize. Find out what the customers really value and give it to them.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When we were in the very early stages conceptualizing and building Porch.com, we thought that we could build a product centered around lead generation to connect homeowners with the right professionals. This was a strategy for a few companies at the time but we thought we could do it better. As a result, we found it very difficult to capture demand in a way that was sustainable and ethical and it ultimately failed and failed quickly. We took our learnings to develop a product that was instead more like a LinkedIn that connected homeowners to
professionals using actual data.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
See question 4 🙂
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I’m really competitive. That’s something doesn’t come across much in an office environment, but if you ever get me on the ping pong table – it’s on!
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I’m deep into Google Analytics every day. My team and I are always tracking the effectiveness of different campaigns, marketing and SEO efforts. I find Google’s tools really fit our needs – there might be tools out there that perform better or are more effective, but the value of what you get for what you pay for (which is nothing) really makes this tool essential.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It’s a cliché, but the Lean Startup should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking of starting up.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
This is something I think about almost every day. There are things that happen at the office or in life that you disagree with and Frankly, most people will just complain. Being that change you want to in the world or your community really resonates with me. If you are the first to do what you believe is right and do it well, others will follow.
Ronnie Castro’s Blog: http://ronniecastro.me/
Ronnie Castro on Twitter: @rcastro831
Porch.com on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/porchdotcom
Porch.com on Twitter: @PorchDotCom
Porch.com on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/porchdotcom
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.