Vincent Turner’s startup Planwise is a San Francisco based software company that aims to help its users make better financial decisions. Sometimes buying a car or a house can lead buyers into a complicated mess of resources aimed to help but in the end, they may end up confusing buyers instead of helping. Of course, those aren’t the only events that may affect finances, and Planwise is built deeply to list many potential events.
Planwise utitlizes a browser based or mobile app as a tool to help you analyze your current finicaial situation as well how your finances may look in the future. It’s a free tool that can even be used anonymously in which you fill in finacial details.
It’s a robust tool that is a practical solution to figuring out how your current situation may be affected by future events or actions.
We had a chance to speak to cofounder Vincent Turner and he shared with us about having internet access in Australia in 1997, working in SOMA, and how his scooter is better than any car :
How long have you been involved with the internet?
Since the beginning! My father bought an Apple 2GS, in 1978, the year I was born! Apparently we learned to program before we could write, but I can’t really program (no, html/css doesnt count) so this must have sprung from the well of urban legend. I will say though, computers ruled our house. We had the internet in 1991. Yes, 1991, in Australia. It was all text based, used for chat, email and downloading ‘The Big Book of Mischief’ otherwise known as the Anarchist’s handbook. You would literally be jailed for downloading this ‘ebook’ now. I remember dad thumbing through the almost 100 pages of ‘how to make explosives’ and tearing out Nitroglycerin, as being too dangerous, and in a roundabout way condoning every other thing in there. Needless to say we had a fun and loud few years with that book.
My brother was writing basic games in the quest genre from his mid teens, my first real step into the tech world was in 1997 when me and a school mate set up the first map based real estate sales site in Australia. 1997, almost 10 years before google maps hit the scene. We were tracing over maps from the street directory, making them images and attaching properties by x/y co-ordinates from an access database. We charged $150 a property and were making a couple of grand a month as 19 year old kids.
We were fortunate enough to meet a guy who had some crazy ideas about text messages in 1999, .. and shifted our focus to that. I designed and patented a messaging technology, that got us about $2m in venture funding and ended up being implemented at a few major banks in Australia.
What time do you usually start work each day?
I start when I wake up, I’ve got in the habit of no alarms. Sleep until you stop, then get up and go. The only exception is if I have an early flight, but I tend to avoid these. We have recently done a seed round at Planwise and have added 6 people to the team so my home office has been outgrown. I love our new place. It’s right in the heart of SOMA, in San Francisco. It’s modest, we share it with another tech company. There is an office dog and we work around a great big desk. Coming into the office to work with my team is one of the things that really makes my day.
What’s the first thing you do when you leave the office at the end of the day?
Scooter time! I can’t recommend this mode of transport enough! Trust me, it will change your world. Take everything you hate about cars (owning, gas, insurance, traffic, parking, registration) and it will turn every negative into a positive. Nothing brightens any day at the office, like scootering up into the chill SF air on the way home.
When do your best ideas come to you?
Best ideas, comes in two parts. Having the little idea is 95% of the time while asleep, I wake up, think more about it in a half awake state, write it down, then pass out again. However, this isnt the important part really. The important part is when I develop ideas more fully.
My process literally consists of working on the subject matter and then taking the laptop or notebook to bed (or the office couch) and actually falling asleep while still thinking about the idea. I then drift in an out of light sleep making further notes as required.
Just about all the product and strategy breakthroughs at Planwise have come about via this process. If you can make it work for you, I highly recommend it.
We want to know about where you spend your day! What’s on your desk right now?
I tend to have a lot of windows open but nothing unread. My work has two gears.
First gear is interacting with everyone else and second gear is producing something in isolation, a burst of production without distraction. Often I will go to a cafe for 3 hours for this output.
However ‘my desk’ is a very fluid concept. Right now, I’m typing this from a desk in a development office in Bulgaria. We don’t outsource all our development but as a startup I’ve learnt that you need to be open to pragmatic solutions. A visa delay (thanks US government!) is causing bandwidth issues, so we have a development relationship here to keep things pumping out.
Back to my desk, when I am at a desk it’s basically my laptop, mouse and watch (it gets taken off while working).
Favorite book? Author?
My mum will kill me, but I really don’t have one. I tend to read a lot of smaller things that couldn’t be called books. I remember enjoying Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card – about the same time I started my first tech company – Sorry mum.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually put your life on hold and realize yours?
Not sure where to begin on this one – ok, big ideas – I actually think that most people don’t have big, truly big, ideas. The confidence stopping people from pursuing ideas also affects the size of the idea. But in answering the question directly, I dont feel I put my life on hold. This IS my life.
Quite a lot as an entrepreneur you hear from people ‘wow, I don’t know how you do what you do’ as in chasing your dreams, throwing away the safety net etc. But I look around me every day and see people doing things that I don’t know how they do. From people who are doctors, to deep sea divers and all the way to people who are happy to sit in traffic an hour each way each day.
I see it more as people do what they know how to do. I know, in myself, how to do this. How to run a startup, solve problems, challenge people and attract them all the same, how to learn new skills quickly and take new information and assimiliate it into a broader context. The confidence is merely a reflection of me knowing ‘this is what I know how to do’
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get their business off the ground?
Understand your strengths, and share these with other companies. I can’t recommend enough taking on 1 – 2 advisor roles with other companies. You will end up learning from them. The other more practical bit of advice is get everything else off your mind as best you can. Issues at work are exacerbated when there is issues at home (money, relationships, etc). Try as best you can to ensure these are actually and mentally separated.
Who has been your biggest cheerleader throughout this process?
Hard to pick a biggest one but the guy who got me across the line in my darkest hour in August 2011, was a guy called Tim Crommelin. I met him at a festival 2 years ago, via a customer at a Deli I used to work at when I was 17. He had spent 4 years out in the valley, and helped me through the early stages as an adviser and when it seemed no one else would, he put his hand up to put enough money in to keep the show going. I have to thank my father too, he has backed me without reservation in every startup venture I’ve done.
Where can our readers get ahold of you?
Twitter is best, @vinaeco – also about.me/vincentturner. Hit me up with any questions relating to startups, software or UX design and I’ll happily do my best to respond. I’m stoked to be advising some amazing companies, one that is making great progress is etool.net.au – helping builders & architects to design carbon neutral and energy neutral housing. Awesome space.
I can say one thing to people, go and find a real problem. Not just one with money attached to it. People are inspired to be part of something bigger than themselves.