Everyone likes a little confirmation from their friends. I know that, personally, if I’m shopping by myself and I find something I like, I’m way less likely to buy it than I am if a friend is with me. Most of the time, humans just seem to need that second opinion, which is why we’ve seen the meteoritic rise of sites like Yelp and services like Google Reviews.
If you think about it, though, why do we actually trust the reviews on those sites? I have no idea who Jeni R. or Ben C. is. What do I care what they think? Granted, Yelp now lets you see what your Facebook friends are saying but that limits your perspective to the few of your friends who are actually reviewing on Yelp.
Enter Review Signal. Founder Kevin Ohashi thought that the product review world could use some disrupting and he created a site that aggregates what people are saying on social media to provide more accurate reviews. Currently focusing solely on web hosting services but looking to expand soon, Review Signal uses simple math to let you know where you should be spending your hard earned dollars.
What’s your company about? What do you do? Who are your customers?
Review Signal is about turning the opinions we share on social media into a review site for consumers. We collect, filter and analyze opinions and try to present the most accurate and up to date picture of a company based on what their customers are saying about them. Our technology is best suited for intangible things like services, because they are inherently hard to measure and compare, apples-to-apples.
So Review Signal’s rating is basically a customer happiness rating.
We also want to add a new level of transparency by connecting each review to the source they came from. Every opinion is linked directly to the original source; this way you can verify and evaluate every opinion shared.
In fact, there are no accounts on Review Signal at all: you cannot write a review on Review Signal. We started with web hosting reviews because we felt that area desperately needs some transparency for the average consumers.
We are in data collection mode for other internet infrastructure services and will hopefully expand into other things like domain registrars soon.
Our customers are our users. Our users are people who are in the information gathering process and want to make a good decision about where to spend their money.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website? Why is it better than the competition?
Review Signal is like asking all your friends what they think about a company. Except everyone on social media just became your friend.
Compared to our web hosting review competition, it’s not even fair. The competition is pay-for-play nonsense. I have yet to meet someone who trusted them. There is an incredible amount of distrust and hate for the whole segment. We’re better because we’re transparent about our review process and have more data than any of the competition.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
I originally wanted to call it Mention. I thought Mention was really clever because the reviews were what people mentioned about a company. I even had a deal for the domain name Mention.com lined up, but it fell through. Since Mention was unavailable, I wanted something that reflected what the company does: it filters down social media and finds the signal embedded within every day conversations.
So I went back to the drawing board and generated a lot of names. I was heavily involved in the domain name business for many years and built a lot of tools to generate brand names. They came in very handy. Review Signal stood out among the hundred or so options I considered. The “Signal” of course being our, the consumers’, opinions of companies. Sticking “Review” in front turned it into Review Signal. It’s reviews based on the signals we, the consumers, send in every day conversations on social media.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
The first computers I remember were at my school where we used Macintosh 128’s and at home I had an i386. My family got AOL around 1995 I think.
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
I start my routine between 10-11AM and work until midnight. On average I probably work for 12 hours a days, including weekends.
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
I went on vacation this past August to Thailand and China. I have family living in both countries and wanted to visit before I launched. I also spent some time out on the beaches in Phuket and Phi Phi Island and got my PADI (scuba diving) certification.
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
Check my email/skype. It’s the last thing I do before bed and the first thing in the morning. I’ve got family all over the world and we keep in touch regularly, those edge hours are the best times to talk with them.
When do your best ideas come to you? In bed in the morning? During dinner? On your third beer?
They seem to come at all times. I keep files on all my devices where I try and write them down as soon as possible. I’ve had them come up in conversation, while driving, and while coding. The strangest one was when waking up in the middle of the night with an idea right after the first day of Startup Weekend. I ended up getting a team together Saturday morning and making it that weekend. The result was a gift recommendation engine called GiftLizard.com.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
It’s just me. I tried really hard to find a co-founder early on but I couldn’t find anyone who complemented me well and was willing to quit their job. I didn’t imagine myself programming everything, but I went ahead and I got started because if I didn’t, nobody else would. Eventually, I found myself far enough along and more comfortable with my own ability that I stopped looking and I am quite happy as a solo founder.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
I earned it. I didn’t start with it in the slightest. The scope of this idea is beyond anything I’ve ever done before. The technology was more complicated than all of my previous programming experiences.
I was lucky to have some good friends and mentors to help me through some of the tougher times. I have an amazing family that has supported me through all my ventures.
I also realized failing isn’t really that big a deal. I’ve had a few companies which failed already and there were little, if any, consequence to their failure. So I had nothing to lose in going after it. The confidence grew with each step I took forward and the goal got closer to being realized.
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
Motivation is really hard to maintain 24/7 for a long period of time. It took me 19 months to get Review Signal out the door, but there were a few breaks. Sometimes I just needed to put my mind on something else or take a vacation.
Since I had no investors or co-founders to deal with, I could develop on my own schedule. I took a vacation two months before launching because I figured I wouldn’t have the chance to do that again for a while.
I built a few side projects alone and with friends. Each one took less than a week of work. It may seem counterintuitive, but I learned a lot from those ‘detours.’ It also helped me focus again on Review Signal and test out new technologies and ideas in a harmless environment.
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
Quietly. I like to think about the thing that is frustrating me, and then I try to figure out how I can get past the issue. Sometimes the best solution is to simply sleep on it. My biggest professional frustration is I wish I had taken more computer science and statistics in school. It would be really helpful right now.
What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?
I work at Affinity Lab, a coworking space in DC. I share it with ~60 other companies and I don’t have an assigned desk. I come in every day and find a place to work, which can include desks, couches, and even standing. Every day there is a chance I might be sharing a space with someone I’ve never met or an old friend. It’s a constant mix of new and old faces which helps create a lot of interesting connections and relationships.
I listen to music almost all day long on Spotify or DI.FM. I am a huge movie fan. I would probably have done movie reviews first if the space wasn’t so crowded with well liked competitors. I go to a couple movies every month and watch a ton of them off Netflix.
I’ve been a big gamer too all my life. Blizzard games seem to hook me every time. My favorites now would be Starcraft 2 and League of Legends. I like strategy games that I can cooperate with friends against other opponents.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
Profitable. I hope! What I would like to see in 5 years is that the technology was proven to consumers: they would understand and trust it. We would also cover a lot of different industries and be the de facto source for reviews in those industries.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
My mother is incredibly inspiring to me. I haven’t met anyone who works harder than she does and still manages to get everything done both professionally and personally. She is also one of the most empathetic people I know and really cares about everyone around her.
I also admire Bill Gates. I think he’s the greatest role model for successful entrepreneurs and wealthy people in general. The tech world sometimes feel very insular and solves their own problems. He’s really branched out to solving humanity’s problems and I admire that.
How’d you fund this venture? Where’d you get the money, man?
Review Signal has been self funded. I made enough money from my domain name business to cover my living expenses and by cutting costs to the bare minimum.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
It’s easy to want things, but evaluate every purchase by asking if you really need it. I just bought my first pair of new shoes in over 2 years, because I finally wore them down so much that there were holes in the bottom and my feet would get wet when it rained from the bottom.
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
Finding a network of people who support you and encourage you is the most helpful thing possible. Being in the right environment can make all the difference. Find people who make you more productive just by spending time with them.
I joined a coworking space in DC (Affinity Lab). While I am the only person working on my startup, I have the support of ~60-100 other entrepreneurs for nearly everything I could imagine. Find a community that works for you.
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
Travel. I just got my Scuba certification this summer and would love to go scuba diving all over the world and take pictures underwater. I am fascinated by Odyssey Expeditions, who are modern day treasure hunters finding shipwrecks. Wreck diving looks really exciting and I would definitely try it.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?
No. I don’t think I’ve left a big enough impact yet. I will feel successful when I can really claim to have made people’s lives better.
Top 5 websites you couldn’t live without and why?
- Reddit – there’s a community for everything I like, and things I didn’t even know I like yet.
- Wikipedia – I seem to end up learning something new every day from Wikipedia.
- Netflix – Who watches normal TV/DVDs anymore?
- BBC – I am a bit of a news junkie and I don’t like the US news Google – my life seems synced to their services.
Top 5 mobile apps you’re in love with and why?
I honestly don’t use my mobile phone for much and didn’t even own a smart phone until this year. I use it for email, browsing, weather, Twitter and notes. I am still trying to figure out where people get all this time to use mobile apps. I always seem to be near my computer which I prefer infinitely over a tiny mobile phone for doing things and I think it’s really rude to pull it out when I am with other people.
What is your music streaming player of choice, and what are you listening to right now?
Spotify or listening to Digitally Imported (DI.FM). It’s generally electronic or classic. Music without words helps me focus while adding enjoyable noise.
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet? (And why that country?)
New Zealand because of Lord of the Rings.
Three people (other than you) we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @fakegrimlock – Because he’s the smartest dinoentrepreneur around.
- @joshu – I’ve always enjoyed hearing his thoughts about startups. He’s very blunt most of the time which is refreshing.
- @ericabiz – Not only one the most generous people I know, but also one of the smartest.
Please share some specific numbers (funding, revenue, visitors) that highlight your growth.
Review Signal is bootstrapped. It launched [recently] so there isn’t much growth to speak of. We’re just beginning our journey. What we do have is reviews. When we launched our web hosting reviews section, it debuted with over 100,000 reviews, making it at least one order of magnitude bigger than any of its competitors.
Where can our readers get ahold of you?
Courtesy of startup founder