The reading level for this article is Novice
Did you have any entrepreneurial ventures before Pinpoint?
I’ve always pursued independent projects and had an entrepreneurial spirit. Before starting Pinpoint, while I was attending high school at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, I started a financial portal with another student. Our analysis and editorial of the stock market and technology/Internet companies provided an interesting education into the business models and strategies fueling these companies, and the SEC filings (particularly S-1’s) from several technology companies provided an invaluable wealth of information when I drafted Pinpoint’s first business plan in my dorm room. Our site also delivered stock quotes and other info to early web-enabled PDA’s and phones as early as 1998, which was ultimately helpful experience for Pinpoint. My other ventures have ranged from biophysics research to starting a free web-based email service.
What have been the keys to Pinpoint’s success?
The key to Pinpoint’s success so far has been all about maintaining focus. For most of our history, we have been operating in one of the most challenging business environments. By mapping out our strategy, setting aggressive milestones, and reevaluating and adapting milestones and strategy as the landscape itself evolves, the team at Pinpoint has been able to execute and succeed in this challenging climate.
In addition to providing the Fuel platform to mobile operators such as Verizon Wireless, what are some of the applications that have been developed for the platform? How important are application developers and content providers to your company’s success?
Pinpoint’s Fuel platform unifies the wireless value chain, serving as the critical link between mobile operators, application developers, and subscribers. Pinpoint does not develop mobile applications, but instead provides mobile operators with the platform and tools to scale and manage the number of applications and content services deployed on the network. For application developers, Fuel provides the mechanisms to easily deploy applications with the operators, and perhaps most importantly enables developers to easily monetize their services to end-users. Application developers and content providers are critical to Pinpoint’s success and the overall success of the wireless industry, and by enabling a viable business model, Fuel helps operators create an ecosystem that enables developers to innovate and create truly compelling mobile applications. Today, Pinpoint’s Fuel Developer Program includes more than 150 application developers from 28 countries, offering more than 400 applications.
Do you feel you’ve missed out on some of the good things about college that can only be experienced when one is a teenager?
There is definitely something unique about being a freshman in college that makes alcohol, frat parties, all-nighters before midterms etc. incredibly exciting, but which loses it’s allure after running a company for a few years (or after becoming an upper classmen). Seriously, I realize I’ve had to make tradeoffs and at some point in the future I would like to attend Stanford, hopefully for the kinds of experiences that are still relevant for non-teenagers.
At the same time, I can’t imagine being anything other than an entrepreneur and running Pinpoint. Most of my friends in college right now are Juniors or Seniors, practically all of which are struggling to figure out what to do with their lives after graduation. In many ways, I feel lucky to have already found my passion and to have the ability to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. I also feel lucky that I don’t have to worry about job fairs and interviews, especially in the current job market!
How important are the proper advisors in ensuring a young entrepreneurs success? At what point in the process did you bring in experienced directors and VPs? How crucial was this?
It is absolutely critical to have good advisors! One of the first things I did after starting Pinpoint was to find a great lawyer and accountant, both of which provided help in structuring our company properly and attracting our first capital. Research Triangle Park, like other tech centers, is full of successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople, and I’ve made a strong network of friends and advisors that have provided extremely helpful assistance as Pinpoint has grown.
Research Triangle Park has also been great for recruiting talented employees. One of the first things any successful entrepreneur has to do is to admit what you don’t know, and surround yourself with advisors and employees who can help scale and execute the business. I began building our management team and bringing in experience directors immediately after we raised our first venture capital.
What books and resources would you recommend for young entrepreneurs?
The last two books I read were The Perfect Store by Adam Cohen and Nerds 2.0.1 by Stephen Segaller. I love reading profiles about successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople, as well as histories of successful companies and technologies. I’ve read tons of stuff about companies like Microsoft and eBay; my main interest is companies that have successfully executed over long periods of time and which have dominated their markets. I also recommend entrepreneurial resources on the web, or even better resources available in an entrepreneur’s local area – I’ve benefited tremendously from an organization in Research Triangle Park called the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (www.cednc.org).
Any final advice for young entrepreneurs or businessmen just getting started?
Focus, Focus, Focus; plan out your strategy; create a culture which hits targets and produces results, but yet fosters creativity and can adapt to change; don’t let ego get in the way of success or tough decisions; prepare yourself and your team for a marathon, since starting a company is not a get-rich-quick scheme or a race to an IPO; be incredibly passionate about whatever idea/business you’re endeavoring to create – think, will this idea still excite me at 2am on a Sunday morning, or on a weekend in the office 4 years from now!