You don’t have to be an expert in everything. All you need to do is surround yourself with those who can make it happen.
Seymour Segnit has spent a career finding smart solutions to everyday problems that plague normal folks around the globe. As the passionate and enthusiastic founder, president, and CEO of MAGFAST – a direct-to-consumer startup with an inventive new suite of sleek and powerful wireless chargers that are “changing charging for good” – Segnit is taking the lead at revolutionizing an industry full of complications and confusion.
Segnit grew up in London, where he went to Westminster School near Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. Although he admits that formal education was never his forte, he studied engineering at Oxford University. In his early career, Segnit worked at ad agencies Ogilvy & Mather and Saatchi & Saatchi and was a radio broadcaster at Europe’s #1 commercial station, Capital Radio.
After moving to the U.S. in 1997, Segnit was co-founder of a $25-million venture-funded Silicon Valley startup. Website ventures and internet marketing followed in the decade after, including an attempt to transform transportation and even helping individuals get relief from fears and phobias. Prior to MAGFAST, Segnit started his first USB charging company, which grew far too quickly and, as he puts it, “provided the excruciatingly painful experience needed to make MAGFAST a success.” In 2017, Segnit’s laser-focus and entrepreneurial spirit led him to find the missing piece in the consumer market: wireless charging.
MAGFAST, derived simply from MAGnetic + FAST, offers a range of products aimed to “revolutionize the charging industry by finally delivering a truly great charging experience.” The suite of chargers can be used individually or connected to work as a single unit like powerful Lego blocks. With the products’ test launch exceeding their crowdfunding goal of $300,000 in just 15 minutes, Segnit says that MAGFAST is just beginning; the team already has half a dozen prototypes in the pipeline for further expansion, and the sky’s the limit for potential growth as new devices hit the market and savvy consumers demand simple and beautiful alternatives to bulky cords. Segnit describes MAGFAST as “the best work of [his] life.”
Where did the idea for MAGFAST come from?
I already had my head deep in the charging business from another charging solution I worked on before MAGFAST. It was the classic inventor idea; I was dissatisfied with a product that I was using and saw some simple changes that could be made to make something much better and much more delightful.
Back in 2013, I was on one of those missions to improve our own home in New York, and one of the things was that charging was always a bit of a nuisance. One of the chargers I bought had only one outlet on the front and two USB outlets. This meant that I had to cover up two wall outlets, and in return, I only got one wall outlet and two USB outlets. I thought that was ridiculous. I could be achieving all of that with a much smaller charger. I could have a little charger that just plugged into one of the outlets, and it could also have two USBs on it as well. That was the original idea that got me into the charging business.
But the idea of MAGFAST stemmed from something I noticed, which was that there was something very powerful in companies when they had suites of products that worked together. The most stunning example of this, of course, is Apple. I wanted to create a charging solution that went along with that idea, so we started the MAGFAST Family of chargers, which all work together to simplify charging and cut cords for good.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A “good” day typically involves rising early and going for a brisk four-mile walk It does not happen as often as it should, but I try to get some amount of exercise before I start my day. When I do this, I am brighter and breezier all day long. I have a light breakfast, and then, typically, I have more important meetings from 9:00 am to around 1:00 pm. These meetings are conducted with my teams around the world, including China, Macedonia, the U.S., and Italy – and we do it all with video conferencing, screen sharing, etc. It actually feels strange for me to use a phone right now, as I’m so used to working with video conferencing technology.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Using sheer force of will, passion, and an almost illogical belief that it will come to life. The pieces tend to fill in once we agree on the excellence of the idea at the outset. Absolute belief in the outcome is how it’s all made possible – with plenty of ups and downs, of course. Without sounding too “woo-woo,” when you have an intense focus on something, I think greater forces of some kind tend to seal that intent and assist you. Unfortunately, some really big lessons that you need to learn tend to fall in line along the way too, so the stars may not always appear to be aligned much of the time! I think intensity of intent is the key that drives me to the finish line.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I think autonomous vehicles are insanely exciting, and it’s breathtaking what this technology could do for the future. I think there are very few car manufacturers that understand what it truly means yet, let alone members of the public. It’s about something completely different than super-duper cruise control, which I think is how a lot of car companies are approaching it. It’s about understanding the human experience of how you move through the world.
Look at Tesla’s new summon feature. It’s insane. You’ll come out of a store, click the button on your phone, and your car extracts itself from the parking lot and comes to you. And they’re just getting started.
I’m thinking of what this means for elderly people and how this could help reduce the cost for people at all strata of society. Think about if you’re really poor, so you can’t afford a car. But through this new technology, you can rideshare in a very cheap autonomous taxi that doesn’t have a high cost because it doesn’t have the cost of a driver, and the per-mile fuel cost of electric is a fraction the cost of gas.
And at the top end of the spectrum with wealthier people, you can ride into New York City driving if you want or not, and the car will take care of itself while you enjoy yourself in the city instead of dealing with the nightmare of parking. Then when you’re done, all you’ll do is press a button and it will come back to you. That’s really exciting technology.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My peak productivity tends to be sporadic. If you were to look at it on a chart, I’m working all the time, but most of the time I’m only averagely productive, with a few spikes of “off the charts” productivity. It’s not consistent. I get once-off game-changer ideas that completely revolutionize what we are doing and run with them when they come. My highest value outputs are usually related to new ways of doing things, as opposed to a steady flow of output. There is a kind of founder value-add I can make that is quirky and unusual and sometimes very valuable. I also get caught up in tedious tasks too much of the time, so we’re working on my delegation skills so I can really focus on high-value tasks.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Emotion is far more powerful than logic. People don’t buy a car or get married on the basis of logic; they operate on feelings. When I was a young man, I used to be factually correct about most things. However, I was a pretty annoying friend and colleague to have. Reading the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie in my mid-30s was incredibly important for me. Before reading the book, I would use my considerable linguistic skills to make myself sound right, instead of using them to encourage others. I started to become more humorous and emotional instead of factual and analytical.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
There’s a quote from Christopher Hawker, who is a friend, entrepreneur, and inventor: “A late product is only a late product until it ships, but a bad product is bad forever.”
We could ship something ordinary much faster. But we choose to take the time and ship something amazing in the end. I believe that when you stick with us through this journey and the moment comes that you finally get your chargers and you’re opening the box on your desk, I believe that you’re going to say, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing; that’s what I’m looking for!”
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Marketing, marketing, marketing. It’s all about marketing. Unless you can sell whatever it is that you’ve got, it’s just a hobby. I recently visited a British entrepreneur who has everything figured out in detail – except how to get visitors to his website. The website is amazing, but what he is doing is incredibly high risk. All of the past companies I was involved in that failed went under due to a lack of customers. Marketing is everything. I don’t care that you make the most beautiful cupcakes or a fantastic software. Nobody cares until you figure out a way to put it in front of people. This is one of the great pieces of advice that I was given and will always share: if you are not spending 80 percent of your energy on marketing, you will fail.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
If you don’t know how to do something, pay for somebody good to do it. You don’t have to be an expert in everything. All you need to do is surround yourself with those who can make it happen.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The big one for me was the failure of the first charging company I started. I think it was just sort of sheer force of will and determination that helped me overcome it. Any sensible person would have said, “All right, well, that’s the universe telling me not to do this.” But I was like, “Yeah, but I can see all of these chargers working. I can see the market has the need for this.” And my appetite for make a charging solution didn’t go away just because I messed up the first time.
I think one of the biggest challenges for inventors is knowing whether or not it’s worth running with the idea. Is this worth me mortgaging my home and dedicating my life, or is it sort of rubbish? And we’ve all come across individuals or inventors who have something that’s basically dumb, but they’re putting their heart and soul into it, and it’s heartbreaking because, you know, it’s not going to go anywhere. But it’s very difficult to know when it’s your own thing.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It’s amazing how many people’s houses you go to and they have a beautiful flat screen television and then there’s a nasty mess of wires dangling down from the television. It would be great to have a product that could elegantly attach to the back of your television and then somehow make its way to wherever the rest of the electronics are without showing the mess of wires and cords.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I guess the one thing I can think of is buying my daughter a ticket to go to a show. It’s not quite $100. But I can tell you the next best $100 I will spend; it’s related to micro geolocation. We are going to spend small amounts of money to get ads in front of our extended family, so they feel great about being involved. If it works, you will see MAGFAST advertising tailored to specific buildings. I’m good at spotting something small and leveraging it for maximum effect. This small project could have a massive impact.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
In general, video conferencing solutions like Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc. I’m in meetings all day, every day, and we’re communicating via video, which was all but impossible to do 10 years ago. The difference it makes is pretty profound, that you can have teams meeting in person across time zones. Everyone from all over the world can meet as if they were in the same room. I have a white board behind me, and in most meetings, I will turn to the whiteboard and draw a diagram or illustrate something or we’ll build a list or something. Being able to do live video conference calls helps me be way more productive and efficient with my time.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
That is something of a difficult question, mainly because there are so many I could recommend. There is one book that I definitely have to mention: “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo. I studied it page by page, and it has been a major influence on how we speak to the world. And it is completely consistent with the “How to Win Friends” that I mentioned earlier because, ultimately, it’s all about emotional impact.
What is your favorite quote?
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works” – Steve Jobs
● Absolute belief in the outcome is how it’s all made possible. The stars may not always appear to be aligned. Intensity of intent is key.
● “A late product is only a late product until it ships, but a bad product is bad forever” – Christopher Hawker
● It’s all about marketing. If you are not spending 80 percent of your energy on marketing, you will fail.
● Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie to learn how to effectively communicate in business and personal life.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.