If you struggle to get your point across, you’ll have a lot to learn from Danny Boice, Co-founder and CTO of Speek. Whether talking about the advantages of his startup’s app (making conference calls much simpler and faster), giving a pitch and promising that his co-founder will get a tattoo if successful, or channeling frustration though Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Boice doesn’t mince words or tread softly. Genial, entertaining, and an authentic entrepreneur – you’ll want to listen closer when you hear him speek:
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
My journey to becoming an entrepreneur was very fluid. I don’t feel like it was a binary decision – entrepreneurship was just what I was meant to do. The very thought of working a traditional corporate job made my physically ill. I’m too pretty for manual labor. Founding startups just made sense!
What inspired your current startup?
My co-founder, John Bracken, and I were in NYC for a business trip for a previous gig. Like most serial entrepreneurs we spent our time after work spitballing ideas for new startups. John had founded E-vite previously and had some ideas for how we could apply some of the same viral mechanics that made E-vite great to fixing crappy calls. After a short Lean Startup validation phase we were off and running doing Speek full-time with several hundred users.
What makes your startup so killer? How is it different from the competition?
Speek is indisputably the fastest and easiest way to do conference calls. Period. Our competitors include archaic dial-in teleconferencing services run by old guys in Joseph A. Banks suits that have let the same crappy, stagnant experience remain for their users for decades. We are here to fix crappy conference calls for the people.
How do you motivate yourself and your team?
We have an amazing team that has been self-motivated since day one. Every single member of our staff took salaries below market in exchange for an aggressive stock options package. We all have skin in the game and are in it to win. I don’t know of anything that motivates more than that.
If the Internet didn’t exist, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be inventing tangible products and changing the world the old fashioned way.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are struggling to get their businesses off the ground?
Jump in and do it full time. Wantrepreneurs moonlight. Big girls and big boys jump right in, feet to the fire, and make shit happen.
You can’t change the world on nights and weekends.
What has been the biggest startup surprise for you (good or bad)? Have you had any incredible / funny / challenging experiences that you can share with us?
The #1 largest surprise of my entire startup life was when we my co-founder actually followed through with the Speek Monkey Ass Tattoo at SXSW.
To make a long story short, I won a pitch contest by lying and promising that he would get an ass tattoo of our logo if I won. He had no idea I was doing that. I won. He got it. The Wall Street Journal covered it here.
How do you handle frustration or disappointment?
Scotch. Just kidding. I actually workout quite a bit. Specifically I do mixed martial arts like brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay thai with some bad ass fighters from Disciple MMA in Sterling, VA. Here are some recent training pics.
What are the top 3 online tools / websites / devices that you couldn’t live without? (And why?)
- LinkedIn – I use this to track down potential hires, potential partners, product people from other companies that I want to meet.
- Github – I spend a huge chunk of my day in github whether it be looking at code, tracking issues, etc.
- Dashboard.io – I am either a mentor or mentee at several accelerators from 500 Startups to the Fort. Most accelerators and incubators I am involved with dashboard.io to manage office hours, post questions, etc.
If you had $1 million and one year off, what would you do? (Other than work on your current startup)
I would unschool my kids and take them around the world on a journey to find the things they are passionate about so they can spend the remainder of life mastering them. That’s how education should work
I had the pleasure of meetings Dale Stephens recently who is a Thiel Fellow, runs uncollege.org, and recently published the book “Hacking Your Education” all about unschooling.
How do you maintain work / life balance?
Like any engineer-minded person, I followed a fairly analytical and rigid train of thought in scheduling my life. I have fixed days and times where I hang out with my wife and kids no matter what. I start my day at the same time every morning and plan tasks out in a fairly strict fashion. I workout at the same times of the day and maintain a fairly fixed rhythm there.
Who would play you in the movie of your life, and what would be the theme song?
Lemmy from Motorhead would play me and “Mama Tried” would be the theme song.
How has being an entrepreneur changed you for the better? How has it enriched your life?
I see so many people that just don’t seem happy with their lives. They work crappy 9-5 jobs, despise Mondays, relish Fridays, and talk about “Hump Day” on Wednesday. This just seems really, really depressing to me.
I wake up every morning excited to get out bed. Half the time I couldn’t tell you what day of the week it is because they’re all equally great for me. I don’t think I would feel this way if I weren’t an entrepreneur.
What is the tech scene like where you live?
The DC Tech scene is thriving. There is a slue of great startups and great founders. Incubators like Fishbowl Labs and 1776 are here. Accelerators like The Fort and Acceleprise exist. We were able to raise our $1.5mm seed round almost entirely from local VC’s and angels.
The tech scene in DC is still young but it’s thriving.
Where can our readers find you?
How can the KillerStartups community help YOU?
Check out Speek.com and let me know what you think of our product!
One more question, which of your tattoos is your favorite?
The one with the gunslinger on it that says “I did it my way.”