Welcome to another edition of the Unusual Entrepreneur Interviews and today we have here with us unusual entrepreneur Ryan Hart.
He is the 26 years old founder of Hart Ventures, a company that is passionate about creating innovation for the purpose of meaningfully improving the lives of others.
I’m so excited to have him on the unusual entrepreneur interview series because of his company’s recent invention, MillionDollarEarth.com – “the creative wall for businesses to hang their advertisement on.”
If you are just joining us for the first time, this is the unusual entrepreneur interview series. It is a parade of unusual entrepreneurs who are changing the world and profiting from purpose. Profiting from purpose by changing the world isn’t an impossible dream as many tend to think of it, but a realistic one as many unusual entrepreneurs have extraordinarily proven. Click here to read more unusual entrepreneur interviews.
How Unusual Is Ryan Hart?
According to his LivetoClose Kick-ass startup profile;
“Ryan Hart was pondering what to do with his newly earned MBA. He decided to put it in a box and venture out to earn his stripes in the dot com world, dreaming of changing the lives of others with his creativity and passion.”
With his MBA packed in a box, Ryan set out to create an unusual company, Hart Ventures; which involves angel investors, venture capitalists, and strategic partners, to build world class teams and successful organically incubated businesses. Hart Ventures enters into four ventures a year while exiting at least one.
And here’s how far that entrepreneurial decision has taken him;
In the 2009 Richard Bransons Perfect Pitch Competition, Bundlebuy.com one of the company’s innovations finished in the Top 10 of 1150 businesses. Bundlebuy.com was later sold to the founder of Shop.com, Lee Lorenzen. CrowninTown.com won the 2010 PLU Business Plan competition. YourStarForever.com was featured for Valentine’s Day on Groupon.com.
The company’s most recent invention, MillionDollarEarth.com, was nominated for a 2011 WebAward. Million Dollar Earth allows you to unify your social media outlets in one location [the virtual pinpoints within Google Maps] while associating your brand with a unique city or iconic landmark. In other words, someone could virtually own an entire city of their choice!
“Online there has been no unique voice in advertising, I want MillionDollarEarth.com to change that and be the creative wall for businesses to hang their advertisement on.” – Ryan Hart
Clients can now purchase one of 1,000 cities worldwide for approximately a thousand dollars each. Primary pricing is based on each city’s audience or population size. Each city comes equipped with many options included on its map tab including: a Facebook fan page, Twitter feed, YouTube videos, as well as a custom text box.
Ryan and his team are passionate about using the platform and the proceeds from MillionDollarEarth.com to make a difference in the lives of people around the world who do not have safe water to drink. They are donating ten percent of the proceeds to Charity: Water, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean and safe drinking water to millions of people in developing nations!
Take it away Ryan!
Interview Questions Part One
ENTREPRENEURSHIP – Awakening the Spirit of business
1. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your business? What do you do? How do you do it? Why do you do it and who do you do it for?
I am the managing partner of Hart Ventures, LLC. We invent, build, market and sell online businesses. I work with a team of people, web developers, graphic designers, PR specialists, and sales teams. We want to innovate online and bring joy and creativity to the Internet. We view the computer screen as our canvas.
2. How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey into the world of business? Where there any key incidents or life changing events that inspired your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I built my first computer with my graduation money from High School and began selling things pretty successfully on eBay. Over the years I saw many websites where I thought, “Man I should have thought of that.” After I graduated college I met Scott Dahl, who had the ability to build anything I dreamt up. This really opened my mind up to rethink the possible and re-explore the Internet and how business is done online.
3. When you started out in business, what specific idea, purpose or vision was your key driving force?
I began by creating BundleBuy.com, the precursor to Groupon, but it dealt with products rather than services. I filed for a patent and contracted a team to help me. It was my first run out of the gates and I learned a lot, mainly because I completely failed.
4. What is your take on the general notion that entrepreneurs should build a business around what they naturally love to do?
I completely agree. Your passions have to align with your work. This is the only way you will be able to power through the road blocks and navigate the speed bumps. I was just thinking this morning about how every day I face new challenges and fires to put out. It is like being in love with the right woman, you can get through everything.
5. What is your personal life mission as an entrepreneur? That is; what contributions do you want to make with your life or what would you like to be remembered for as an entrepreneur through the businesses you create when you die?
I want my businesses to make people say WOW out loud, either by solving a problem no one else could, creating something incredibly fun, or providing value to people. It feels great to be clever. Money isn’t the goal, the satisfaction of building something is.
6. What would you describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship? That is; what role do entrepreneurs play in the world?
They are the kids that grew up without having the “WHY? mentality” squashed out of them. They are the starters. They put the wheels in motion and then move on to the next.
Interview Questions Part Two
STRATEGY – The unusual execution of business best practices
7. How do you identify business opportunities and what metrics do you use to measure their viability?
Business opportunities present themselves every day, which is the easy part. Usually we look at the potential market size, risk involved, and cost to get to revenues, then do a MVP (minimum viable product). There is never a guarantee that something will work, that is what makes it so much fun.
8. Do you have mentors, business coach or external consultants that you work closely with to grow yourself and your business? If yes, to what extent would you describe their impact on your business? If no, are there any particular reasons?
I have had a ton of close friends who have been willing to listen to each and every one of my ideas and have the guts to give me a straight answer. By the time my projects are launched they are usually only 20% of my own ideas.
9. How do you strategically use your time as an entrepreneur? What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs use their time for?
Make sure to take a day off each week (Sunday for me) to rest and step back from your work. It really helps to come back to it with fresh eyes.
10. How do you generate profitable customers for your business? What unusual approaches do you adopt for marketing your products/services?
90% of all my sales through MillionDollarEarth.com came through relationships with bloggers introducing me to their readers. Like what you are doing here now Tito, through this interview.
11. Many entrepreneurs complain about not succeeding in business due to lack of adequate funding, what is your take on this matter and how do you cope with funding issues in your business?
I agree, funding is the bottleneck to Entrepreneurship. It takes a ton of time and energy to form the relationships that bring in a check. I have never had trouble getting a check, but getting it on my terms is sometimes a battle.
12. When starting out a new business, who are the likely possible partners or professional service providers you would recommend every entrepreneur work with?
I have a local web designer and developer who built all of my projects. It is a huge help to have a track record of successful projects with contractors. It makes your next venture that much more likely to succeed. My technologies of choice are mailchimp, hootsuite, gmail, google analytics, wordpress, zendesk, vistaprint and paypal.
13. The pricing of products/services is always an issue for entrepreneurs, what unusual approach do you take when it comes to pricing?
Be fair. People know when you are gouging them, but they also understand paying for the value you deliver to them.
Interview Questions Part Three
MISCELLANEOUS – Resourceful Recommendations, tools, books, and ideas for unusual entrepreneurs
14. Since you became an entrepreneur – someone who solves problems for people profitably; what has been your most outstanding accomplishments in the context of business?
I would say my most proud accomplishment is helping my brother build his company RhinoCameraGear He currently has a DLSR camera slider project on Kickstarter and has raised over $22,000 in pre-sales in the last 24 hours.
15. What would you describe as your major setbacks and what lessons did you pick from them?
I spent over $30,000 on my first company Bundlebuy.com. I eventually sold it to the founder of Shop.com, but it was still disappointing I couldn’t bring it to market myself. I had the privilege to learn how to bootstrap my next project.
There were two projects I started that I found out later I wasn’t passionate about. I ended up selling out to my partners and moving on. So now my passions drive my projects, rather than the other way around.
There are too many experiences to list, but the best way to learn is from your own. Successes are nice, but failures are much better. I missed the finals two years in a row at my undergraduate business plan competition and then went on to win my graduate business plan competition.
What more would you like to know about the Unusual Ryan Hart? You can ask him further questions below in the comment section and I will be sure that you will get an answer directly from him.
Also, what did you learn from this unusual entrepreneur? What lessons, what philosophy of his strike you the most?
Ryan has shared his unusual story with you, now is time to hear from you. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!