A Q&A with IdeaMensch founder Mario Schulzke. The Los Angeles–based company has engaged in a national road trip this summer involving 50 startup events in 115 days across 48 states.
SUB: Please describe IdeaMensch.
Schulzke: IdeaMensch is a community where entrepreneurs from all walks of life share how they are bringing to life their ideas—via both our interviews and our events.
SUB: Who are your hoping to reach with IdeaMensch?
Schulzke: People with ideas. People who are bringing their ideas to life already as well as the ones who have been hesitant to do so. I want to provide inspiration and information that helps existing entrepreneurs better bring their ideas to life. And for IdeaMensch to provide the inspiration for folks who might be sitting on their ideas, to start bringing them to life. In my opinion the best way to accomplish that is to get out of the way and have folks learn directly from successful entrepreneurs.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Schulzke: There are many excellent players in our space, even though I would never consider them our competition but rather other people who are passionate about helping entrepreneurs.
Personally I recommend that every IdeaMensch reader should watch Andrew Warner’s Mixergy interviews. They are amazing.
SUB: What differentiates IdeaMensch from the competition?
Schulzke: We do text interviews with a wider variety of entrepreneurs than anyone else. I don’t think that’s better or worse, but that’s how we’re different than most.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Schulzke: I started IdeaMensch as a nights and weekends project when working in advertising. The first step was to create a basic site with a WordPress theme—by the way, our logo was and still is generated by that first theme we chose—and then to get some friends to participate in our interviews.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for IdeaMensch? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Schulzke: It was absolutely gradual. I spent many years in advertising, an industry filled with thousands of great ideas that never see the light of day. I had always admired people who’d take an idea and just made it happen. So I decided to start interviewing them, which is how IdeaMensch started.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company/getting it off the ground?
Schulzke: The hardest part about running IdeaMensch has been that we’ve been growing slowly and steadily. From day one, I decided to pursue a slow growth strategy. That kind of strategy resulted in one very distinctive advantage and one big obstacle.
The big advantage has been that IdeaMensch is very sustainable and scalable. It is going to be easy to run this business for the next 50 years.
The big obstacle has been that this kind of ‘slow growth’ strategy takes some serious patience. Rather than pursue big pivots, I spent three years refining a rather narrow product.
SUB: How is IdeaMensch funded? Are you tapping into outside sources/investors?
Schulzke: IdeaMensch is 100 percent bootstrapped by myself and has been fully self-sustainable financially since very early on.
SUB: What are your goals for IdeaMensch over the next year or so?
Schulzke: Right now we’re on a 48-state road trip across the county, organizing events where entrepreneurs share how they bring to life their ideas. Just as I spent a lot of time refining our written interviews, I am now working on translating them into an exciting event format.
Along the way, I want as many people as possible to be inspired and encouraged by other entrepreneurs to start building their own ideas.
SUB: Tell me a little bit more about the road trip. How are the events structured—who participates? Where are they typically held?
Schulzke: Our event format is pretty simple. We bring in four-to-five local entrepreneurs who spend 10-15 minutes sharing with us why they had their idea and how they’re bringing it to life. That’s followed by 10 minutes of Q&A after each talk. Speakers have ranged from the CEO of Techstars to a pig farmer in Iowa. Our take is that the idea doesn’t matter but rather it’s about how you bring it to life. Check out http://im48.co/talks for some examples. Events tend to be held at places that attract entrepreneurs—like co-working spaces and accelerators.
IdeaMensch – www.ideamensch.com