In the winter of 2013 while searching for business opportunities (like I always am) an idea came to. I wanted to start something new and since I had been out of the CEO seat for a couple of years, I really wanted to make a splash. I was looking for a BIG idea, and guess what, I found it!
I was in my car driving on the freeway thinking very hard about new business ventures (I like to go out for a drive to think). Then it hit me, initially the idea I had was doing something like a dating website/app but specifically for the purpose of finding a roommate. BING, lightbulb. I immediately called some people I respect to get their opinion of my idea, one of those people was my friend and now business partner J. Candace Covington. She loved the idea and helped me vet it out more adding some innovation to the mix by adding the idea of combing background and credit checking to the profiling system giving us a complete one-stop-shop for a “rooommate-finding/vetting” system. It was gold, now the next step was to see if someone had created this before us.
My initial reaction was that someone would have had thought of this before because it was so simple and right in front of us. “Who wouldn’t use this?” I kept asking myself that over and over again. Knowing the pain we have all gone through living with a bad roommate(s) or renting a place to a bad tenant(s), I would have paid hundreds or thousands to avoid that painful process. So, we starting researching, and sure enough, no one had done it yet! That’s the crazy thing about a great idea, some descent ideas become great simply because no one has done it yet. Have you ever thought of an invention or business and then saw your idea on an infomercial years later? That’s happened to me before, and more than once too. If you are anything like me, you are a methodical person with a dash of crazy. You see, to run with an idea and try build a company around it is no easy feat. Although this is not my first rodeo when it comes to start-up’s the environment changes daily, especially if you’re in Tech. What I have learned over the years is that some can get lucky once, rarely do they get lucky twice, and you pull it off a third time, it’s not luck, it’s a learned skill and habitual.
So, knowing we had a solid idea, and no one else was doing it, we ran with it. Filed all the paperwork, raised a little seed money, wrote a business plan and starting building a team. We needed advisors, a development team, an attorney, and most importantly, we were going to need some investors! The amount of work and sweat equity that go in to the beginning stages of a company are dizzying, and most people can’t imagine doing it because the name of the game is work for free and ask a lot of people for help your first year, and then maybe you will get a shot at the big time. Remember that 95% of small business fail, and you don’t even want to know the percentage rate for start-up ventures! I eventually brought Dr. Jim Hamerly the idea. Jim started the entrepreneurs track at the CSUSM (my Alma Matter) and helped “reform” the school of business there. He was the former VP of AOL Time Warner and former VP of Netscape (He has so many big accomplishments, I could write a blog about it 😉 )I met him while I was giving a lecture the CSUSM Entrepreneurs society 4 years ago. We quickly became friends and shared many of the same business philosophies. I would run ideas by him, but I had never seen him as excited as he was when I ran the Roommatefax.com idea by him. I immediately asked him to be our lead advisor to the company and he accepted.
Armed with a small team and a little bit of capital, we picked up an attorney advisor Eric Morton. We realized quickly that if we were going to make this happen in a big way we would need to team up with a law firm that could advise us on any problems that could arise in the future. Although I have owned and operated several companies, we quickly learned that if one day we were to go public there were many things that needed to be taken into consideration and that it is best to tackle those things early on. Eric Morton has played an integral part in helping us set up the business properly and filing our trademarks and copyrights to protect the hard work that everyone has put forth to get this project going along with user agreements among other necessary documents.
We had spent countless hours researching the market place and now we knew what we needed to have to make us stand out from rest. The next step proved to be the most difficult. Who was going to help make this dream a reality? We knew time was not on our side but it was extremely important that we picked the right development team to build the Roommatefax site and app. We began a checklist of things that we were looking for in a development team and began interviewing teams across the country. Some of the criteria most important to us included the development team believing in the idea (like it was their own), be in the United States, willing to work closely with us and have successfully launched websites and apps on all platforms. So after meeting with several firms, we were introduced to Prakash Chegu. Prakash was really excited about the project, and met all the criteria and best of all, he was local and really easy to work with. We did some wire frames, cut a couple checks, and the development of our dream commenced.
Finally we were going to need some awesome design work for the company. My good friend Shaun Briggs answered the call. I have known Shaun for over 6 years now and his design work is so good, that as a designer myself I feel like I stand in his shadow. I was always told by my mentor that you should look for people better than you, and then work with them. In a strange turn of events, it turned out that Shaun actually used to work with Prakash 10 years ago when he was running his brokerage firm in San Diego, that was fate, and in the start-up phase of a company, you need all the help and good luck you can get! Its been a year and a half since we started out on this mission and a lot of blood sweat and tears have gone into this project. And I knew this was going to be a lot of work putting all the pieces together. Although it is nice to know that we are on the home stretch of the development process, the real hard work is about to begin. So where are we at now? We are currently seeking investors while getting ready to close out our seed round of funding that will continue until about mid-late July. Then we plan on launching our beta versions of the site and app (on IOS and Android) by late summer. Currently we have a profile on crowdfunder.com where we can seek investors from friends, family, and supporters of us. We know we are in the toughest phase of the start-up process and are ready to take it on. So if you or anyone you know is interested in getting involved in our company as an advisor, investor or member of the team, please get in touch with us here.
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As you may or may not know, I am somewhat of a political / media watch dog. If you are not sure what a media watch dog is, let me fill you in. The “Media Watchdog” is a person or organization guarding against illegal practices, unacceptable standards or inefficiency in the media, and the “Political Watchdog” is a body or person which watches something, especially government departments, or businesses, to see that regulations are being obeyed.
Usually, other self-proclaimed watchdogs like myself can be a little extreme. Like my main man conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of infowars.com.
Although Alex does make some valid points, he can go a little off the deep end from time to time as seen in the video. Then of course there is my favorite local activist/antagonist Mr. Mark Dice. Mark and I have done some activism together and I really like working with him. He is probably the most Punk-Rock political watch dog/activist that I have ever had a chance to know. He makes some ridiculously entertaining content showing just how brain-dead some people really are. Check out this video
So aside from some very animated personalities that are very clear on their agendas and absolutely serve a purpose in not only pushing the limits of, but reinforcing our 1st amendment right to free speech and press; where can we find some real news that speaks to our culture? This is a questions that I posed some years ago, and while I was in my undergrad program at CSUSM I did a very interesting research project on media outlets around the world to see just how fair and balanced our news outlets here in the states measured up to news outlets outside the country.
As it turned out, Al Jazeera, the Iraqi based news conglomerate headquartered in Qatar was gave the most fair and balanced report based on the criteria that I had set which by the way was non-biased, and compared all the major U.S. networks and others from around the world like the BBC, Australian and Russian news. In an even more surprising turn of events, out of the 25 media outlets I compared, the U.S. media outlets didn’t even break the top 10 out of 25 for being the most fair and balanced. There were communist countries and Theocracies that had more fair and balanced news than anything we were putting out. Sad? That doesn’t even begin to express how it made me feel.
So for the next 5 or some odd years, Al Jazeera was my go-to network to get my daily dose of what was going on in the world. Although they were somewhat limited as to what was happening in America, I could at least get an idea of what was happening in the world around me with some amount of confidence that the information that was being given didn’t have some secret plot or agenda involved in it.
Then about 2 years ago, I rediscovered Vice media which was a little magazine publication out of Montreal founded in 1994 by Suroosh Alvi, Shane Smith, Gavin McInnes. I remember seeing publications of Vice magazine back in 2002 while I was attending the Magic International Trade Show in Las Vegas Nevada promoting my clothing company. The magazine back then seemed to appeal to a very sub-culture group of New York hipsters but upon further investigation, the articles seemed to speak to me in a way where they weren’t biased, they were just writing content in a way that really engaged my generation. In fact I remember thinking to myself “wow, if this could only reach main stream press, we might actually be on to some kind of cultural revolution in this country!” Then I put the mag into the the magazine holder next to old editions of Surfer and Thrasher and didn’t hear or see anything about Vice for years.
It made me a little sad because after everything I have seen and lived through over the past 10 years, I knew that the ideas that Shane Smith and Vice were putting out were way ahead of their time and that no one from the main stream media would even blink or think twice about giving these guys some love for investigative journalism or writing even though it was some of the most real, and thought provoking writing I had ever seen in any publication to date at that time.
Furthermore, knowing that “we” (meaning America politically, socially and psychologically) were on the brink of indoctrinating a generation (AKA the “Gen-Xers” and “Millennials” or “My generation”) of mindless media Zombies through use of consumerism, advertising and scare-tactics, I become more and more apathetic to the political process. This all came to a head in my last year of my undergraduate studies in college when I came to the realization that by going to and completing college only reinforced the ideas and ideologies I already believed and confirmed my biggest fear to be true.
What was that fear of mine? My fear was that college, a place that I was raised to believe was a market place of ideas where you could freely discuss any and all subjects turned out to be an outrageously expensive watered-down version of liberal pop-culture indoctrination with a blip of conservative ideas that were only entered in to the discussion so the institution could make the claim that they were being fair.
I went to college somewhat optimistic that would be able to find like-minded people who like me were fed-up with the bullshit, and ready to instate some kind of change, some how through activism, political awareness, or in the very least, entering alternative ideas in to the classroom. But what I found was that the same brain-dead zombies who weren’t in college were really not all that much different then my classmates at all. My college experience felt more like going to the DMV for a couple of years with the exception of a couple teachers who were my only light in that pop-culture media cesspool, and I am grateful they were there, because without them, it would have truly been a lost cause and waste of time and money.
When I found Vice again 2 years ago, I quickly realized that they had come a long way and that people were really starting to take notice. What changed in me? Nothing. What did Vice do differently to attract more people to it? Nothing. They stayed true to their core ideas which I must say is pretty fucking Punk-Rock considering every single media conglomerate in this country has been bought-up re-sold and watered down to 2 very singular ideas. 1) NBC, CNN, and MTV – They gay loving, super liberal, democrat blue team or 2) FOX, ABC, and ESPN The bread and circus, gay hating, gun-toting bush-loving AMERICA fuck-yea red team. There is no 3rd party, there is no middle any more, there is only Vice.
Here is a good example of the mentality behind Vice’s political views: In a March 2008 interview with The Guardian, Shane Smith (Vice Founder) was asked about the magazine’s political allegiances and he stated, “We’re not trying to say anything politically in a paradigmatic left/right way … We don’t do that because we don’t believe in either side. Are my politics Democrat or Republican? I think both are horrific. And it doesn’t matter anyway. Money runs America; money runs everywhere.”
This statement personified exactly how I felt. It spoke to me in a way even Al Jazeera couldn’t because even though they put out fair and balanced content, they are not here and they don’t pretend to understand the struggle of my generation. All that I ever wanted was to be told the truth. Stop lying to me and tell me the truth. It’s so comical because it seems like despite knowing that we are being lied to on a daily basis, no one seems to give a shit anymore. Russell Brand says it the best here in this interview on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxton on the BBC network.