Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A peek into the life of a NY Tech Entrepreneur

I had come across David Lifson's name a while ago when Fred Wilson had re-tweeted one of his tweets. David being based in Bayonne NJ caught my eye, and I had added him on my Twitter Following list.

Last week, David tweeted "If you want to pick my brain, sign up for office hours: http://tumblr.com/xns5q1mrx" I took up this opportunity to meet up with a Tech Entrepreneur in NYC, and signed up for a meeting with David. And on Friday afternoon, I was at Postling's new shared-office near Union Square face-to-face with the CEO of the company.

We had an interesting 45 minutes conversation covering various topics related to his life as an entrepreneur, the progress and prospects of Postling & tech scene in NY.

26 year old Lifson is on his second entrepreneurial venture with Postling. His first venture - Waffl - whose intent is to create an online community around Bed & Breakfast Inns - started out as a small project funded by a friend, and has been online for the past year or so. The difficulty of enrolling Innkeepers - quite likely to be reluctant tech users - to use a new system to manage their operations - has turned out to be a bottleneck for Waffl's growth.

Dave started Postling with Chris Maguire and Haim Schoppik - two of the founders of Etsy.com - in the middle of 2009. The idea for Etsy - a website which provides the general public a way to sell and buy handmade goods - grew out of frustrations with Ebay experienced by a group of hand-craftsmen; the founders of Etsy were helping with redesigning a bulletin-board site for the group when they noticed the increasing complaints and decided to create a new online community limited only to people dealing with handmade goods.

With its objective to make it easier and less time-consuming for small businesses to publish to the Social web, Postling has been making good progress on getting paying customers in the recent months. The challenge though would be to tie up with intermediaries - like Yellow pages - to cross sell Postling's services to the Intermediary's customers. Postling is yet to sign up for significant external funding which will be very essential to fund operations, and fuel growth of the company. So far the founders are making do with personal investments, taking minimum or no salary & loans from friends and family.

I got some good pointers from Dave about starting on my own and to know more about the tech scene in NY. There is a monthly gathering called hackersfounders which would be a very good networking opportunity. There is also a site called startuply.com which lists jobs in start-ups all around the country, and could be a great way to start an a entrepreneurial career when I don't have an biz idea of my own.

The biggest take-away for me from the conversation with Dave though is a shift in my views towards income. Previously I used to base my expectation on annual income on "how much I made last year or the years before" and get myself all worked up about "how much someone is supposed to be making". Listening to how Dave and his team have been managing to keep their company going by taking minimal or no salary at all, I am looking at how much money I need to live, to come up with an expected income figure. That perspective encourages me to get a better handle on my expenses, and gives a sense of freedom around money.

To end this note, I want to thank Dave Lifson for the opportunity to meet up with him with the Signup for office hours concept, and for his time and valuable insights during our conversation.

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