Iterate. No idea is ever going to work perfectly at the outset, and you are not going to know everything or have the team or resources to make it an instant success.
Rudolf is an entrepreneur with extensive hands-on technical and marketing background. He founded gDecide to help anyone in the world make better decisions by combining social software technologies, gamification and cognitive science. gDecide is a free private decision making social network accessible using a native iOS app and a responsive Web solution so that people can collaborate on decisions using any device or browser platform they like.
Rudolf thrives on teamwork, building exceptionally designed products and systems, having meaningful connections with people and helping others succeed. He holds a degree in Bachelor of Software Engineering with a minor in Marketing from the University of McGill in Montreal Canada. He was one of co-founders of Tenrox. As CEO, he grew the company from a bootstrapped start-up to a world class cloud-based project management solution provider with 130 employees and more than 800 customers in 50 countries. The company was sold in February 2012 to a US private equity group providing a successful exit and excellent return for all shareholders.
Rudolf grew up in Iran during the Iranian revolution and war with Iraq, learning lifelong lessons on what it means to be free, and the vital importance of heartfelt positivity, family, friendships, tradition and culture. Today, he lives and works in Montreal with his wife and three young children.
Where did the idea for gDecide come from?
I have always been intrigued by how people make decisions. My company gDecide is on a mission to render decision making easier and more fun by using modern social tools that leverage today’s amazing mobile technologies. Our platform allows for collaboration that incorporates scientific advancements in understanding how people think and analyze information and we plan to exploit the rapid rise of gamification to make activities such as asking and answering questions more playful and engaging.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There are no typical days in the life of a new emerging company. Every day there are unexpected events and exceptions to deal with. The only way to be productive is to prioritize your day and focus on a few deliverables. Planning ahead is almost impossible.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Some people talk about taking calculated risks or what they consider is a sure bet. I think there is no such thing. To bring an idea to life, you just have to do it. You immerse yourself in it, almost like an ostrich that puts its head in the sand and leaves the rest of itself exposed. Then every once in a while you have to perform a brief sanity check, make necessary adjustments and re-immerse yourself in the new and improved idea. It’s never a straight line to success.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The increasing amount of information, technology and connectivity we all have access to at all times, almost for free, excites me. There is so much room for innovation, and it’s easier than in the past to try new ideas and business models. It’s truly an exceptional time to be an entrepreneur.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
What matters is the here and now. I focus on what I can accomplish today and today only.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
My worst job was a tech spin-off I worked at for a few months. They had a non-technical manager who did not understand setting deadlines and priorities. The project went nowhere and I left in frustration after a few months. I heard later that the company failed and everyone lost their jobs after a large sum of money was spent. I learned that a new business in any field is very challenging and requires very experienced domain experts from day one, no matter the cost.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I grew up in Iran, and we moved a few times in my business life. No one I grew up with is even in the same city I live in today. Knowing what I know now, I would try my best to be friends and stay connected to all my schoolmates for life. Those deep relationships, friendships and connections are priceless. Accomplishing things and being with people that you truly care about and have a history with makes for a better life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Iterate. No idea is ever going to work perfectly at the outset, and you are not going to know everything or have the team or resources to make it an instant success. You have to set some short-term goals and checkpoints, stop and review what you have accomplished, re-strategize and immediately start working on the next iteration.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
You have to agree on and closely monitor a few key non-revenue metrics (three to five is a good start) that can be easily measured. For example, look at the numbers of returning users, number of invitations and number of new interactions per week. If your key metrics are trending positively, then you know you are on the right track. If they are not, you know it’s time to make major changes and rethink your strategy.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest failure was when we took our product and development resources in too many directions, adding new or bloating existing features and customizing them to make a few major clients happy. Once we realized it was a mistake, we contained the problem (accepting fewer customizations and making it harder to request them), and we focused more on our core offering.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Look at any product or service that is complicated and expensive like building a new mobile game application. There are a lot of artists, game developers and programmers who would contribute to a new game idea if the right incentives were offered. Maybe you can develop a service that builds such a community that crowd funds and crowd-develops new mobile games submitted by and voted on by the site’s members.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I am a terrible handyman. I often end up with extra nuts and bolts when I assemble even the simplest toy, equipment or tool.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. This is not a tech or business book, but it is a remarkable study of what happens when human beings blindly follow any sort of doctrine. It is a horrific story of Victor’s journey to a concentration camp and his subsequent freedom. Reading it made me understand how we can lose our humanity, doing what’s right, by adopting any type of extreme views. The actions and reactions of the characters in the true story are simply amazing and a great study of unrestrained human beings who seemingly act without empathy or any fear of consequence.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I have always admired Bill Clinton while he was President and after he left office for his charitable work. His ability to communicate, motivate and move people and his willingness to compromise to get the job done are all traits and principles I aspire to have.
I also like Bill Maher for his funny, mostly fact-based and insightful commentary of today’s trends and events.
My favorite Twitter profile now has to be Gabe Zichermann’s and his web site http://www.gamification.co/. I am very interested in learning more about how to make things more fun and playful. I think Gabe is completely right that we are going to see a lot more gamification in everything we do. It is all around us already, a huge trend and rapidly advancing into every system, process and machine we use on a day-to-day basis.