E062: with J.R. Johnson

TWiST-E062

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about this episode

This week we have a special guest host Jason Nazar (TWiST #6) CEO and Founder of Docstoc interviewing guest J.R. Johnson, CEO and Founder of Lunch.

00:01:45 ASK JASON – Scott KleinSound Around – We’re in second place in our market, how will pricing affect my product moving forward?

Answer: Congrats on your business, generally I wouldn’t worry about being second in a market I’d worry about being better and cutting prices isn’t always the right place to start to gain market share. Work on marketing and connecting with bands, people don’t necessarily know you are second in a market. Work on promoting yourself. You need to work on 4 things:
Don’t discount hustle and just work harder
If you really want to try discounting, do it for a limited time
Do some financial modeling, make some assumptions and see where you stand
A/B testing different prices maybe an option

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If you tweet #TWiST @JasonNazar @JRLunch and @DNAmail we will pick one winner who will receive a free month of DNAmail service

00:12:45 JASON’S SHARK TANK – Scott McIntoshMusikPitch – Allows people to create a contest for custom music for any project, similar to 99designs but for Music

Pitch Feedback: You spent too long trying to describe the value of your product, consider shortening that part and adding your business model and market size and who is your primary customer.

General Feedback: It sounds like you have the classic marketing problem, you have supply but need more demand, focus on trying to get customers that need multiple songs and offer a multi-tiered prcing model to entice these people or consider offering something for a quick sale.

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00:30:20 J.R. Johnson started off as an attorney and after 18months left to pursue his dream with a startup

00:31:15 Are you from an entrepreneurial family? Not at all, he’s from a family of lawyers and what he didn’t like is that being a lawyer has very little creativity you are mainly stuck in past precident

00:32:30 Growing up all along he had the entrepreneurial bug and while attending USC he was part of the entrepreneurial program

00:34:30 At school he listened to all the success stories and realized that these guys were just ordinary people and figured he could do it, often when reading about people they can sound intimidating so hearing from them was extremely important.

00:37:00 Did being a lawyer or going to graduate school help you? No in law school you read about all the things that can go wrong and often graduate school is a hinderance. However, the critical thinking and being able to articular well in written form was learned in grad. School.

00:41:00 Where did the idea for your first company VirtualTourist come from and what was it? It was basically a review site for the travel industry and was sold to Expedia, he ran it from ’99 – ’08. The idea started on a trip to Germany when he met two guys who were starting vTourist and he self funded $263k with friends and family and moved them to the US.

00:43:00 Was it a tough sale getting the guys to move to the US? Not in 99 the internet boom was still happening and his lifestyle afforded the risk.

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00:47:00 How did you get people to submit reviews? Because old Google search placed a lot of importance on domain age they usually ranked high and people clicked them first. However, user generated content at the time was not common back then.

00:49:30 How did you market your company? We didn’t it was all SEO

00:50:30 If you knew how difficult it would be, would you have done it? No

00:51:00 What was it like to ask friend and family for money? Back then it wasn’t hard at all, everyone was getting rich from the internet. When things got tough then it was tough facing people.

00:53:00 What motivated you to stick with it? Stubbornness

00:55:00 When did things turn around? People continually added reviews but when they were able to insert ad links things turned around

00:56:00 What didn’t you know going into your startup? Basically everything, I knew nothing about the travel industry, I recommend if are interested in an industry go work for them and learn while you get paid.

01:00:00 Entrepreneur Superhero, is July 14th, what are you best at? Persistence and not giving up

01:01:30 He almost sold the company in 2005 to Internet Brands, which ended up getting them in legal trouble, he signed a terms sheet that included a breakup fee, they won but he didn’t get a lawyer and failed to notice the clause, be sure to get a good lawyer.

01:05:00 Basically sold VirtualTour because he wanted to start Lunch, a feature rich site that allows you to create communities about niche areas of interest, it’s basically a mini-Yelp.

01:07:30 Why the name Lunch? It’s just a great name?

01:08:55 What is different your second time around? I took 17 hand picked people from VirtualTourist but my burn rate from day one is much higher but I have a bigger vision.

01:09:00 What are you like as a boss? Laid-back I don’t micromanage, I like to go to work and I want employees that feel the same.

01:11:30 What characteristics do you look for when hiring? People who are smart and hustle

01:13:30 What is next for lunch? Communities are taking off but finding people with the founder mentality is tough but fun to watch how they manage people

01:17:15 Will you continue to build companies? Right now I am too focused on Lunch but if I wasn’t doing this I’d probably be focused on philanthropic endeavors.

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THE NEWS with Lon Harris

01:19:00 New Apple TV – Rumors abound about the next version of Apple’s set-top box, the Apple TV. Engadget reported earlier this year that the new Apple TV will run on iOS, the same operating system as the iPhone and iPad, but now we have some more gossip to report.

In addition to streaming content directly from the cloud (as opposed to the iTunes model of downloading content first and then playing it), it’s been rumored that Apple will push 99 cent streaming TV rentals, as opposed to the $1.99-$2.99 current pricing structure. (Rentals would apparently work in much the same fashion as current iTunes rentals – once rented, it’s available for 30 days, and once you push play, you get it for 24 hours.)

Think viewers will prefer Apple’s 99 cent rental model over the Hulu Plus and Netflix subscription model? Will any of these services break America of its reliance on standard subscription-model cable TV?

The products aren’t their yet, sports will be very difficult to bring to the internet, it’s tough to get licensing, it get’s expensive at the end of the month and prices aren’t going down maybe when the distribution forces prices lower it may succeed.

01:23:45 Facebook Acquires Nextstop – According to a blog post on the startup’s site, Facebook is acquiring social travel recommendation service Nextstop. Nextstop, launched in 2009, combined a travel search engine with a recommendation and reputation system, creating essentially a social game based on popular travel destinations. The site was launched in ealry 2009 by former Google employees Carl Sjogreen and Adrian Graham, who had been part of the teams behind Google Calendar and Picasa.

Most of Nextstop’s employees and assets will go to Facebook, though the site plans to release all of its current recommendations and content under a Creative Commons license.

Think this was primarily a talent acquisition, with Facebook looking to hook up with some former Google product people? Or is it an indication that Facebook has big plans for socializing travel?

Travel is getting hot again with Google buying ITA but it’s probably about acquiring good talent

01:27:35 Blizzard Real ID – World of Warcraft developers Blizzard have touched off a massive controversy by announcing their intention to force people to post to their message boards using their real names, not a username. The change will supposedly take effect starting with the forthcoming release of the long awaited “StarCraft II” and will eventually apply to World of Warcraft in a few months when the new “Cataclysm” expansion pack is released.

Blizzard says that it is moving to the new system to decrease the need for moderation on its forums. Blizzard fans offered a variety of arguments for why this is an invasion of privacy, or just a bad policy, including the threats of stalkers for female gamers, the threats of violence against gamers of both genders who upset particularly hostile or emotional companions and a negative impact that posting about a game could have on someone’s professional situation.

Do the fans have a point here? Should Blizzard continue to allow people to post anonymously, even if it downgrades the overall quality of the conversation? Is there a genuine privacy issue here, or are people just being oversensitive?

This is a bad idea, people escape into roleplaying games for a reason and it’s a game

01:31:00 MapQuest to Adopt Wikipedia Model? – MapQuest, the OTHER mapping service that’s currently #2 behind Google Maps, has announced that it will launch a new site based on the project OpenStreetMap, which crowd-sources user-generated maps and has become popular in Europe. The project, which will launch in the UK but can be applied to any location worldwide, will have $1 million dedicated to it in the US alone by MapQuest’s parent company, AOL.

Though for now, MapQuest itself will continue to rely on purchased maps owned by the company, the hope may be that it one day could shift to maps that users keep track of themselves and update with local information. The company notes that users can be more detail-oriented about their communities than purchased maps, and that they can update quickly in the event of traffic, construction and even items of specialized interest like wheelchair ramps.

We’ve seen that the public will update sites like Wikipedia for free, though the veracity of the updates is sometimes questionable. Will the same apply to maps on a for-profit website? Do you think the public could improve the MapQuest project and once again make it competitive with Google Maps?

No I doubt most people will trust it, Google has satellites how can you argue with that?

01:34:35 Open Letter to Fans from Cavaliers Majority Owner Dan Gilbert – Sounds like some letters we’ve heard about from Jason but you gotta feel bad for Cleveland

01:42:45 END

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  • Kirsten Winkler

    Great episode. If there would be a possible replacement for JCal Jason Nazar would be on the top of my list. What about a show every 4 or 6 weeks? :)

  • Anonymous

    Kirsten:
    thanks for the suggestion on the guest host rotation. Jason Nazar will be
    back Tuesday, July 12th to guest host another episode of TWiST
    On Sat, Jul 10, 2010 at 2:27 PM, Echo <
    js-kit-m2c-7KR7OGN8U4QEKQHOHJA98PMRN1RG2MPBMF0V31P3N5ST8MNUD7L0@reply.js-kit.com

  • Arnor Heidar ☺

    the custom-song contest is a complete copy of 99designs.com and since that concept seems to work really well I don’t have reason to believe this couldn’t work.

    I don’t understand why the guy pitching didn’t simply point to that site so that Jason would’ve known that this concept works and is out there. Especially since it’s so obviously a copy of 99designs.

  • Anonymous

    Am i the only one who thinks this jason is super annoying? I mean hes smart and all, but grabbing the guest’s phone is super obnoxious. where im from youd get slapped for that!