I recently conducted an email interview with fellow young entrepreneur Jun Loayza. As fellow Brazen Careerist bloggers, we struck up a conversation about a month ago due to our striking similarities. His answers below give a very candid view of what it is like to start a company right out of college:
Adam: You and I are very similar in that we have made the decision to start our own companies and then blog about it. What led you to decide to dedicate yourself to blogging in addition to the immense amount of time it takes to launch a successful startup?
Jun: I actually write in three blogs right now. My personal one is Living the Startup Life, where I write about my personal experiences with starting a company. My two company ones are FD Flow and FD Career Blog.
Why do I spend time writing when I have a bazillion other things to do? The answer is quite simple: I write because I want to share my experiences in hopes of helping others through their entrepreneurial path and to meet others outside of my social circle. With my personal blog, I hope to give people a glimpse into what it’s like to be a young entrepreneur. What are the sacrifices that I have to make and the hardships that I have to go through? What does it feel like to launch and get a strong user base? Because I’ve exposed my life online and to the public, I have met some incredible people in the blogosphere – you included Adam. In essence, this question boils down to, “Why should anyone blog?” For a personal blog, the answer is to share your ideas, build your personal brand, and meet some amazing people.
We have also just started our video series: Living the Startup Life. The video documents our lives as young entrepreneurs.
My company blogs are meant to build thought leadership in career development. For example, we write interviewing and resume tips on our FD Career Blog that help students and young professionals who are going through the interview process. The more we establish ourselves as the go-to place for Career Development, the better branded Future Delivery will become. The goal: whenever someone has a career question, they’ll go to the FD Career Blog.
The FD Flow blog is meant to immerse our users into the Future Delivery culture. Our brand is “Productivity Made Fun,” so we have a tab on our blog that categorizes everything that is FD. For example, Type Racer is very FD. You get better at typing while racing your friends which is super fun: typing (productive) + racing (fun) = ProductiveFun (Future Delivery).
Company blogs are perfect to brand your company and give your company a voice. The Web 2.0 users love to interact with a company, so a blog is the platform that facilitates direct interaction with your users.
Adam: You actively blog about your personal life as well as your entrepreneurial experience, covering topics like sex and relationships in addition to marketing and career development. Where do you draw the line on what you will and will not talk about? Has a post ever backfired and gotten someone in your “offline life” upset? If so, did that (or would that) change how you approached your blog?
Jun: I currently do not draw the line anywhere when I write. I feel that anything is fair game for me as long as I truly believe in what I am writing.
Hahahaha… I’m glad you asked me about a post that “back-fired.” I can really only think of one post: “Flirt with your Interviewer.” Now, what I should have written is, The Principles of Flirting Apply to Interviewing, but I wanted to be bold, controversial, and make an impact on my first post on Brazen Careerist. Did it really backfire? I don’t think so. The post did its job by generating a conversation and driving people to check out my blog. The only way that it might have back-fired is that a few women bloggers were upset with me for a couple of months. We’re all fine now.
What did I learn from it? Controversial blogs generate conversations and traffic like mad! Write them as often and as juicy as you can, but always make sure that you truly believe in everything that you’re writing. Writing just to be controversial is not cool in my opinion.
Adam: In your about page you have a fascinating quote: “I have no work-life balance because I feel that work is life and work is play; therefore, I constantly have fun no matter what I’m doing.” As a young business owner constantly trying to juggle the different areas of my life, I find this very intriguing. How did you develop this mentality? Can you explain why it is beneficial (maybe necessary) to have an outlook like this as a young entrepreneur working a lot of hours?
Jun: As a young entrepreneur, you will have NO work/life balance. I am very serious about this. If you want to succeed, you need to be working 24/7 every day of the week. I love my company, the people that I work with, and the goals that we are trying to achieve; therefore, I feel that work is play. I see no reason to have a work/life balance because they are one and the same to me. If my fun time is work time, then I can be playing while working. (This of course is the essence of Future Delivery: Productivity made fun)
How has this affected my personal life? My personal life has taken a humongous toll because of this mentality. I don’t give my girlfriend as much of my time and attention as she deserves, I miss out on family dinners all the time, and I see my close friends from UCLA or High School probably once a month. This is why the startup life is not for everyone. The sacrifices that you have to make are much more than hours worked. You really have to change your mentality to succeed.
It has even gotten to the point where I am on a date with my girlfriend and I seem stressed. She asks me, “Jun, what’s the matter? You seem stressed. You need to learn how to relax and take a break from work.” I of course tell her that I’m completely happy being with her right now, but what I am really thinking in my head is, “I just want to go back to my laptop and continue working. That would make me happy.”
Yes, this is very intense, but I think this is the way it has got to be. Adam, I would actually like to hear your thoughts about this topic. What is your work/life balance?
Adam: Jun, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’d say I felt 100% the same way for about the first two years after I left my job. Starting and growing my/our company was the only thing that mattered to me. As screwed up as that may sound, it’s probably why I persevered and am still able to do something I love. The hard part is knowing when it’s OK to be able to back off just a little bit. The past six months or so I’ve made a conceited effort to “regain” my non business life. I get a little bit less done at work every day, but I knew I needed to show my friends, family, hobbies, etc some more attention or I wouldn’t be happy long term.
It’s easy to be happy for a year or two working all day, every day. In my opinion, it’s hard to be happy doing that for a lifetime – one day you’ll wake up at age 50 and realize that you’ve missed out on love and relationships and wonderful experiences because you were obsessed with your company. The “balls out” mentality is necessary at times, but as you grow and revenue grows you have to learn to make time for those other things as well. More importantly maybe, is teaching yourself to enjoy those things while you’re doing them so that you can fully enjoy the experience. Unless you are dealing with life or death with your company (a hospital records company, for example), your business can wait. No issue is so catastrophic that you cannot take a break for a few hours.
I’m not saying this is easy – I have a whole Life Balance section of this blog where I discuss the struggles I face – but it is something I am very cognizant of. My goal as an entrepreneur is to do something that I’m passionate about that brings me excitement and fulfillment while also making the world a better place. I can’t be thoroughly excited and fulfilled if I am not also cultivating my relationships away from the job. I’m guessing that finding this balance will be an eternal struggle for both of us, which is why I asked the question: it will always fascinate me to discuss it.
Back to the questions:
Your startup FDCareer.com aims to take a different approach to personal and professional development. Can you explain why young professionals should look to your site instead of all of the other networking/development sites we’re constantly bombarded with?
Jun: Sites like Monster.com help students and professionals apply for a job. Sites like Vault.com help people research about companies. We see a huge gap. People are able to apply for companies and conduct research, but there is nothing preparing them to be better qualified candidates or to ultimately succeed in their positions. Also, these sites are so boring and mundane that most people would rather do work or homework than to spend time on the site. This is why we created FD Career which features the FD RPG (role playing game).
Our goal with FD Career is unique yet simple: We want to provide the platform that will help undergraduates and young professionals have fun while developing themselves professionally. In the FD RPG, every time you gain an internship, get a high GPA, or become a leader of an organization, you gain experience points and level-up on the site. As you level-up, you gain prestige, new abilities, access to new areas of the site, and will be able to recruit with more prestigious firms. We have also implemented Quests that help you develop career-wise. For example, a Quest for a Consultant could be a business analysis case. You will have to solve a company’s problem – could be profitability or an acquisition – and you will submit your solutions online to be reviewed by our expert panel. A Marketing Quest could be to gain social infleunce on Twitter by gaining more followers.
Monster.com is about helping people apply for a job.
Vault.com is about helping people research about companies
FD Career is about getting students and young professionals prepared for their careers. It helps you discover what you want to be, and how to get there.
Adam: If your blog was a book, with the story being about your life and FDCareer, what would the ideal ending be? (i.e. would you run your company forever and turn it into a Fortune 500 company, cash out and live on a beach, start 10 more companies, etc).
Jun: The ideal ending for Future Delivery is to build an empire. Our ultimate goal with Future Delivery is to build FD World, a virtual world that compliments your personal and professional life. Think of it as the fusion between LinkedIn and Second Life.
FD Career is the first step to building FD World. Once you achieve a high social level on FD Career, you will be rewarded an avatar. This avatar will carry over to FD World once we launch it. Expect FD World to come out late 2009.
My personal goal is to eventually move on from Future Delivery and start another company. I would still like to remain a Board Member and adviser to Future Delivery, but I would leave the day to day operation to another CMO who would take my place. I feel that my personality is best suited for starting up a company rather than running an already successful company. It’s so challenging, diverse, and always leads to unexpected turns and twists. Its a stressful yet super fun life!
Adam: I’m the same way – my skills are probably best suited for the startup phase so I probably won’t be happy unless I’m building something new. Anything else you want to add?
Jun: My final piece of advise is to strive for more than a high GPA. When I was an undergrad at UCLA, I would read a business book while in class rather than listen to the professor. The only reason I was able to learn about entrepreneurship, business, or marketing was because I learned it through trial and error, from a mentor, or by reading a book. My classes taught me none of these things. Yes, GPA is important, but it is definitely not everything. Compliment your academics with personal development. FD Career is the perfect platform that will help you develop professionally and personally (Yes, it’s a plug, but a very honest and sincere plug).
Adam, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be featured on your blog. Good luck with everything and if your readers ever have any further questions about entrepreneurship, they are free to email me at jun.loayza (at) fdcareer (dot) com.
Adam: Thank YOU Jun for the insightful replies. Best of luck to you!