Eric Goldstein, a proclaimed non-technologist, wanted to create an easier way for users to digest websites other recommend to them as well as making the content relevant for their personal use later on by “clipping” that particular website. Eric took his idea, found a team, and is now dedicated to making his idea come to full light in Clipmarks.
Follow Eric’s Startup story and learn about Clipmark’s formation, pressures of investors when Clipmarks changed its direction, and how the development cycle for a service like Clipmarks has changed in it’s history.
As I got off the subway in midtown Manhattan, I was puzzled as I looked up at the address written in my notepad. Yes, I was on the right street and in front the big number signifying I had arrived at the headquarters of Clipmarks, but it was a skyscraper? I walked in and asked the security attendant that I was here to see the CEO of Clipmarks, which only lead to confusion as I wasn’t saying the right words. At that moment, Eric Goldstein walked toward me and explained that they are working on a floor with a Big Music agency which owns all the offices on the floor. He explains his good fortune to have great “family and friends,” who have helped him along the way. New York start-up companies are usually hidden away in flats in Soho or Chelsea but their influence is expanding all over New York City nowadays. Go figure.
So what is Clipmarks? I researched very quickly and found a simple video explaining the basic feature of “clipping.”
I sat down in one of the offices and just jumped right into the interview:
Creation/Formation of the Company:
You are business person. You don’t have a technical background. What made you want to create an internet technology company?
I don’t know what I am. Whether I am a business man or a technology developer, I’m not sure. My background is that I was a finance major in college, and then I went to law school, and became a lawyer. I never practiced [law though]. When I got sworn in I realized I didn’t want to be there. And then I just started messing around with some up and coming internet companies. Learning and meeting people. And when I used the internet, I consistently found myself wishing that there would be some way to capture the “moments” within web pages that mattered to me. And I’d read magazines and I’d read newspapers or as a student I would read textbooks and I would highlight or clip really pertinent pieces of the pages yet I would go to the web and it was just bookmarking.
A bookmark makes sense to me either when you need the entire page for online banking or to check your stock quotes or whatever, but when you find an article or you find a blog post or whatever it might be that really matters to you. If you bookmark the page, I think 9 times out of 10, you end up forgetting why you bookmarked it. And so I really wanted to create a solution for people to get a positive experience when they find something interesting on a webpage and feel satisfaction from being able to do whatever you want with that information whenever they might want.
So you have this idea and desire to make information relevant after viewing it, what made you take the next step and what was that step for you?
Well, prior to this, something I had done is I had started a fantasy sports company with a friend of mine, and we actually got a big deal with one of the major media companies. After we closed the deal, their internet division was closed so we lost the deal. And I spoke to some of the guys who built the back-end of that fantasy sports engine about my new idea and they introduced me to Derek Krzanowski [CTO/Co-founder]. Derek was living in Florida at the time and so I call him and I explained to him what I was looking to do and he and I started working together and been working together for about 5 years now.
Many people have difficulty getting the first few members on board. What was the hooking point to get Derek on the venture?
At first it was a consulting opportunity where he was committed I don’t remember but I think it was 6 months or so to do some contract work for us. He and I got along so well and he really fell in love with the project that he ended up coming on board full time. Prior to Clipmarks we built Amplified. I don’t know if you have heard of Amplify but Amplify let people clip pieces of web pages and aggregate their clips into a collage. So you could have all these pages and see all the clips in them. It got a nice buzz and it won an award from PC magazine and that was just me and Derek and it was just a little too much to handle. So we trimmed it down a little and tried to simply what it is we offer people and the product of that is clipmarks. So he and I go back a bunch of years back to Amplified.
So was that you had a really big Idea and you had to scale it down and simplify it for it to be executable?
I read a lot of books and as I said my background is not technology and I never really have run a company before. And so I read a lot of books about starting companies and also about trying to bring to market new technologies. Three that influenced me that I think are worth mentioning are in business is the book: Good to Great. To me it’s simply about the idea there is get great people on board and then figure out what it is you are going to do instead of figuring out everything you are going to do and then hiring people to do it and I’ve always lived by that. Another book is called Crossing the Chasm which really talks about how to market a new technology and make it appeal to early adopters and then adopt it to the more mainstream user base. And that was a key point in going from Amplified to Clipmarks because I found that Amplified was way too difficult, it was so supped up with features that it was just too much too soon and especially for a company that was just two people. So we followed the idea “simply it and solve one problem and grow into yourself as you have more to offer and that’s what we are looking to do now“. And the third book is called Inmates Running The Asylum. The message on that book is really that technology is a pivotal part of our economy and a big problem is that technology is developed by technologist who don’t necessarily relate to the rest of society in that what they think is clear the rest of society doesn’t. It was talking about the fact that you need people in the world whose professions are to make technology easy for the masses and that is something I hope I bring to this company because I don’t know technology, I’ve never written a line of html in my life and I maintain that ignorance on purpose because I always want to be in the position of someone who doesn’t feel conformable embracing new technologies. So that when we develop things, it has to go through me for it to get out into the public and I hope that I can represent a kind of layperson when it comes to what is or isn’t easy online.
The Main Office. Yes, its dark, but developers like it that way…
A lot of entrepreneurs are hesitant about launching their product or service but in the “web 2.0” space, it’s easier to get started. Do you think it’s just about starting and keeping it going when starting your company?
No, the last word I would use is easy. I think this has been very difficult and even more difficult than I would have ever expected. Planning and starting a company is a healthy blend of over thinking and not thinking too much. Because it’s easy to get excited and caught up in this wave of web 2.0 marketing term which is what I think it primarily is and think that everybody is successful and it’s relatively easy to build something from the ground and have it to become successful. I think the key is really to know whether you are solving a problem that people want solved and whether if you solve that and don’t make money and don’t get bought by Google but solve that problem will you feel satisfied like you accomplished something? Because I think if the answer to that is yes then you probably will make money and ultimately monetize your business. If you’re just trying to quickly get some hype, get some coverage on one of those tech blogs, and get out, my guess is you’ll have your 15 minutes of fame but it will be a hard landing when that 15 minutes ends and the next day, it’s someone else’s turn.
My Advice, its clique and other people have said it and I don’t think its all that original – you have to ask yourself whether you would be doing this if you weren’t going to get paid because the odds are that you won’t. Because most companies, the great majority of companies don’t end up successful financially and I think it’s the ones that are doing things that are because of the product that they are creating or the solution they are coming up with of the problem they are solving who will ultimately make the money. Because if you are in it for the money I just think you’ll probably be very disappointed and kind of just chasing your tail.
That is the end of Part 1. Part 2 will have more on development cycles, revenue models, and the business of things for Clipmarks.
Continue reading ‘Interview with Eric Goldstein of Clipmarks (Part 1)’