Jordan Kretchmer at 26 has already been an ad agency creative director, the vice president of brand at Current TV, and now the CEO of LiveFyre, the first reputation-based community built around live conversation in response to web and news content. The new venture launches on December 7th. TNGG caught up with Jordan who willingly shares his thoughts on motivation, inspiration and drive.
Q: What made you want to start your own company?
A: I never felt fulfilled as an agency creative, or as a brand guy client side. I bounced around jobs a lot because I kept telling myself that I just hadn’t found the place that made me feel completely satisfied with what I did everyday.
But it had nothing to do with places, it was me. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing because I was unconsciously trying to squeeze what I really wanted to do into the jobs I had. I wanted to make products, not ads.
Q: So was there an “aha” moment that finally got you to make the move?
A: I’d say the inspiration to start LiveFyre came from one epic night in Gary Vaynerchuk’s hotel room at SxSW 2009. It wasn’t as raunchy as it sounds. Gary invited 10 people to his hotel room the 3rd night of the conference for what he called an ‘all-night jam session.’ I had met him and his brother earlier that day thanks to a mutual friend, and he invited me to join.
From 8pm to 9am the next morning, I sat in awe of the ridiculous amount of intellectual curiosity in that room. Founders and executives from every heartthrob startup in the country were there: Chris Sacca (Google), Dave Morin (Facebook), Garrett Camp (StumbleUpon), the Threadless guys, and Travis Kalanick (entrepreneur turned investor, who is now LiveFyre’s primary adviser). The entire night was an endless debate about the future of the Internet, business, and culture. I mostly listened, and when I walked out of that room I was more inspired then I’d ever been, and promised everyone then and there that I would be returning to SxSW in 2010 as the founder of a funded company.
Q: So obviously taking the leap from corporate to entrepreneur wasn’t a rash decision.
A: I moved to California knowing I would do something other than the job I came for. It just took all of the elements aligning perfectly, and when they did, I started executing a very calculated plan to make the final leap.
I’d been working on LiveFyre for a couple months before leaving Current TV. And at that point it started to become clear that it would be more than a side project. It just so happened that a day after that realization, Current TV executives canceled the agency search that I was leading because they didn’t want to spend the money, and really, they weren’t ready for an agency anyway. That was the trigger I needed pulled for me to make this huge decision.
Q: Anyone try and talk you out of it?
A: Not a single one. Had anyone told me not to do this, I would have translated their words as a reflection of their own fear of doing something this insane.
Q: The agency business is no picnic. How does this stack up? Easier? Harder?
Every aspect of the company, from the copy on the site, to the language of legal contracts, to ad sales, is the responsibility of my co-founder and me. Neither of us has done even a quarter of it before, so we have no choice but to learn fast as hell.
To make matters more complicated, our engineering team is in the UK right now. They start work at 1:00am our time, so I’m up until 3:30am on Skype going over features, bugs, UI, design, and launch planning. Then I wake up at 8:00am to catch them for 2 hours before they’re done for the day. It’s a double workday any way you cut it.
But, is it harder? NO. It’s easier because I love it more then anything I’ve done before.
Q: Getting tested is good. Are you learning anything about yourself in the process?
I’m definitely learning that I don’t know everything. Sometimes I still think that I do, but those times are rare and getting rarer. Humility is a recipe for success, and know-it-alls will lose at this game.
I’ve also learned that being personally responsible for success or failure is like tourine being pumped into my veins 24/7. The motivation I feel every morning I wake up is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. And it’s been 7 months of that!
Q: No doubt a lot of people dream of doing this. Any particular skills that come in handy?
A: Resourcefulness. AKA: hustling, borrowing, pleading, selling, negotiating, acting FAST.
My co-founder and I play every role imaginable right now. We’re ad sales, UI/design, project management, legal, copywriting, marketing, PR, executives, product, management… if we stop being resourceful, and if we’re not willing to do every single thing from the above two lists, we’ll fail.
Q: You are having way too much fun. Why do you think so many people settle for working for someone else?
I could say “fear of failure,” or “lack of determination” but that’s kind of expected and I don’t think that’s really what it is. I honestly believe that it’s either one or both of these: 1) genetics 2) money.
Genetics because you need the same crazy gene that makes some people go sky-diving while others vomit at the thought of it. In the Valley I’ve noticed a recoil reaction to people who say they have MBAs, because you can teach the definitions, but you can’t teach the genetics. “Entrepreneurs are born, not made.” A lot of people say that and I think it’s true. When I tell investors that I dropped out of college, 3 out of 4 times I get a huge smile and a “that’s great!”
Money is a big factor because starting a company could easily mean going a year with no paycheck, health insurance, or 50% matched 401K. For most people it’s just simply not an option. Or I should say, their entrepreneurial gene isn’t strong enough to overpower the “but I need money to survive gene.” For me, I knew I had the genes, it was just a matter of forcing myself into a place financially where I could support myself for a long enough time, even if on ramen.
Q: The greatest entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs, Phil Knight, Richard Branson had objectives far beyond making money. What are yours?
A: I’m not an idealist (and I don’t think they are either). The central thought of any entrepreneur is making money. I guarantee that as much as Ev and Biz (Twitter) talked about not thinking about monetization, it plagued their every thought for the last 2 years.
But the money isn’t what excites me right now. What really gets me going is the thought of creating something completely new. Bringing something to life that people will love and make a part of their lives. That’s the coolest.
Q: Rate the importance of these on scale of 1—10
Q: Making a lot of money.
Q: Being your own boss.
Q: Making the world a better place.
Q: Getting famous.
A: 2 (I want LiveFyre to be famous. Not me.)
Q: Daily adrenalin rush.
Q: If you Google yourself 5 years from now, what do you hope to see?
A: I hope that to find anything about the Current TwitterRFP you have to go to page 50 of the search results. And that everything before that is about LiveFyre re-inventing the way people have *Actual* conversations online.
Q: Are you afraid of failing?
A: Is that a trick question? … We won’t fail.