Okay, I admit, I use Yelp all the time and I definitely make decisions based on what I read there. The problem is, you don’t know anything about the people writing those reviews! What if they’re the kind of person that just hates EVERYTHING and likes to make people feel bad? Obviously not reliable opinions, in that case.
Israel-based Friendize.Me looks to address that problem by giving you access to a friend network who will advise you, specifically when you’re shopping. They also guide you through the whole process of making a purchase, streamlining the experience and cutting out the nonsense. For retailers, they offer a platform for that can be placed on websites, solving that age-old problem of anonymous online reviews.
Founder Mark Shteiman took some time to chat with us about his vision for his company and what keeps him going day-to-day.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
We looked for a name that would be relatively easy to remember and reflect the meaning of the service. So after several days of brainstorming we came up with Friendize.Me – Friend advize me (as that’s what we are actually facilitating).
How did you get the idea?
While I was on vacation I was driving a new car, and got stopped by a policeman for speeding. My driver’s license was taken. In order to get my license back in a reasonable amount of time, I needed to find local lawyer.
Being a law abiding citizen and good driver most of the time, I didn’t know any. I talked with Benny and recalled that one mutual friend of ours has a rich history of interactions with law enforcement. I knew he could recommend lawyer for me. I used his recommendation and was able to get my license back within a few weeks.
That’s when we decided to leverage the knowledge of the friends on all topics that matter.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
First thing, frequently while still in bed – I turn on my Ipad and check email, Facebook, Twitter (the order may vary). Then I take the kids to the kindergarten. First thing at the office (or on the way) is a mug of cappuccino – can’t start the work without it.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
I started the company in May 2011 and after a couple of months Benny joined. Today we are 5 people in total (sometime outsourcing tasks).
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
I think the biggest struggle is to build the right team (and we are not done yet). In Israel, probably like in the Valley, everybody has an idea and wants to run his own startup.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
People say that entrepreneurs’ life is like roller coaster: some days up and some days down – probably there are more down days. So I usually have several frustrating days on a week. I do two things when it happens:
On the “spirit” level, I try to look into the glass half full instead of half empty and look for examples of companies or services that overcame similar issues.
On the work level – I work harder to fill the other half of the glass.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
We are working at the shared space location called “The Library” – Including us there are 8 startups together. The environment is very open, friendly and cozy (with 2-3 dogs jumping around). As it is part of the real library, most of the time we are trying not to be too noisy. But at the evening the place becomes a location for different meetups, filled with food and drinks.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
We are playing in natural social commerce space – it is in its infancy today and we believe that it is going to be huge. On the Internet, the noise to signal ratio is constantly growing – everyday it is harder to make the right decisions and people are turning more and more to age-old solutions – friends’ advice. So in 5 years we are going to be a big international company, with a brand recognizable by consumers in many countries and trusted by all leading online retailers.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food? Give us the deets, dude!
Sorry no role models. I am doing what I do because:
- I am excited to build something new from scratch
- As entrepreneur you have to do a lot of different things – so there is a lot of studying involved
- And there is always a dream in my mind – being the default destination for millions of people to get advice from their friends – so I am running towards it.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded? Where’d you get the money, man?
We are self funded – using the proceedings from previous small exits. We currently looking for other sources of funding to power the growth.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
Some things I’ve used in my work that may be helpful to others:
- Start with a bigger team (2+), but make sure it is clear who is in control.
- Launch fast, the product will never be perfect and the market is usually big enough for several tries.
- Choose the market that you can easily access and assess from where you are.
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500,000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your currently startup / projects)
Long, long campervan (RV) trip with whole family in Australia and New Zealand (was there already before but want to go back). What remains will go into a new startup when we return.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
Not yet, although I enjoy the process very much. The target is to build a big successful company and then the founders will be successful by proxy.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Probably not very original here – Google search, for sure the most frequently visited website by me.
Mobile App you’re in love with and why?
Well – the most frequently used one is Gmail but I like to be updated through Pulse.
Dogs or cats?
Definitely dogs (also own one thanks to my wife).
iOS or Android?
I don’t like to measure how good a gadget is based on its operating system. If its a good phone I’ll by it regardless of its system. I own Android phone, Ipad and Windows laptop.
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
We believe at Friendize.Me that we address a real pain that many people face on daily basis. We want people to be able to get the best “value for money” based on their personalized requirements.
Where can our readers get ahold of you?
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