[quote style=”boxed”]Meet new people. Your network is your greatest asset and meeting new people on a regular basis is a fantastic way to keep your creative juices flowing. It’s also a great way to constantly refresh yourself with new ideas.[/quote]
As a developer in the Chicago tech community, Tim Jahn has made his mark interviewing hundreds of entrepreneurs from all over the world. He’s written about startups and entrepreneurship for MSN, Fox Business, The Huffington Post, American Express OPEN Forum, and Crain’s Chicago Business.
Tim supports youth entrepreneurship as a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council and was previously a director of the Ignite Chicago event series.
What are you working on right now?
Where did the idea for Entrepreneurs Unpluggd come from?
My co-founder Stella Fayman and I previously ran the Chicago chapter of the global Ignite event series, created by the O’Reilly Foundation. After a year or so of running Ignite Chicago, we came up with the idea for Entrepreneurs Unpluggd as an intimate event specifically for entrepreneurs. We envisioned the old VH1 show “Storytellers” but with entrepreneurs on stage, rather than musicians.
What does your typical day look like?
I spend time with my wife and son in the morning before getting to work, and then hang out with them in evening before my little guy goes to bed. My wife and I spend time together then usually.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have a web development background, so if it’s a technical idea, I can usually whip up a really simple prototype or some sort of breathing version of the idea. Regardless of what kind of idea it is, I usually run it by people close to me to see if it’s crazy or not.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I love these emerging web apps and devices like “If This Then That” that let you connect actions with triggers. For example, “If rain is forecasted for tomorrow in my city, send me a text”. I think the exciting part comes with devices like Twine, where you start to mesh real life devices and situations with web technology. Like “When the dryer is done, email/text me.”
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I don’t think I’ve ever had a “worst” job because I truly believe you learn from every experience you have. And if you’re learning from it, it’s not the worst. I was a janitor of sorts for a local park district during a Christmas break back in high school, so I guess that’s not the “best” job, heh.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Focus. I spent too much time immediately after college being scatterbrained and unfocused in my life in general, both personal and professional.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Meet new people. Your network is your greatest asset and meeting new people on a regular basis is a fantastic way to keep your creative juices flowing. It’s also a great way to constantly refresh yourself with new ideas.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Saying yes too much. I eventually forced myself to focus and only say yes to things that fit within that focus. I started saying no a lot more often and it helped me focus a ton.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Just one?? Heh, ok. A refrigerator inventory system. I’m serious. I want the whole shebang. In our household, we constantly forget we have leftovers to eat because they’re in the back of the fridge, or forget about some fruits/vegetables because they’re in the bottom drawer. I wish I had an RFID-based fridge inventory system that automatically sensed the items as they were put into the fridge and when they were taken out. It would keep a running inventory that I could pull up on any of my devices at any time to see what was currently in the fridge. Some expiration reminders would be a bonus.
If you could change on thing in the world – what would it be – and how would you go about it?
I wish money didn’t run the world. I’d love to change that. I have no idea how. But I wish that at the end of the day, a majority of your opportunities in life weren’t affected by the amount of money you have.
Tell us a secret.
Every Christmas for the past 7 years, I’ve designed, programmed, and constructed a dancing Christmas lights show on my parent’s house. You drive up to the light display, tune your radio to 88.1 FM, and watch as the various lights/lawn ornaments are all synchronized to a variety Christmas music.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
I love Buffer. If you use social media at all for business, use Buffer to handle your scheduling. You’ll wonder what you did without it. I’m also a big fan of Dropbox and Evernote. Dropbox is great because it always stays in the background and does what it’s supposed to do – keep your files backed up and synchronized across all your devices. Evernote does the same thing but for text notes of all kinds.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
To be honest, I’m bad with “pick one” questions. Rework by Jason Fried is amazing, but so is Devil In The White City (forget the author, just Google it) or From Good To Great by Jim Collins.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
So, I’ve been sitting here for about 5 minutes straight and can’t think of 3. Is that sad?
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
These days, I’m laughing out loud constantly, because I have a 20-month old who is quickly developing his own personality, opinions, and likes/dislikes. Every day, it seems he has me laughing more and more!
Who is your hero?
As cliche as it is, probably my mom. She’s been through a lot medically (including heart surgery) through the years and she’s always been one of the most positive, encouraging people I know.
Where do I see myself a few years down the road?
I see myself running my own company and spending a lot of time with my family, watching my son grow up into whatever crazy awesome person he will be.
Entrepreneursunpluggd ‘s website:
Tim Jahn on Twitter: @timjahn
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.