You started your first business at 18. What was that like?
Starting my first business at 18 was challenging. Being young and very green when it came to entrepreneurship, I faced a lot of difficulties that helped shape me into who I am today. A few things I learned along the way was that you have to be willing to put in the extra effort to really start building relationships with your customers and clients. No matter what line of work you are in, we are all in the people business. If you take care of your customers, they will take care of you.
What was your inspiration behind Blue?
It was 2012, while in college, I made a few observations. First, I noticed that while walking around campus people weren't socializing, yet students were glued to their phones on social media. It started to make me think: is social media making us less social?
The second observation happened while I was in a class full of students and I realized that every single student around me had an online identity. We were all on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more, yet we have no idea who we were without walking up to introduce ourselves.
When did you know it was time to launch this company?
Our big “aha” moment came from when we found out about the capabilities of Bluetooth technology and the type of experiences that can be created with an ambient network. With Bluetooth Low Energy constantly being enhanced, we saw a market opportunity for an app that introduces you to people you as you cross paths in real life!
How do you handle risk?
My family and I have put in over a half a million dollars of our own money—we’ve burned the ships, so we have no other choice but to make this company successful. Risk is everywhere in life and it can to be managed by constantly assessing the changing environment and maintaining a willingness to stay open-minded. Perseverance and adaptation are everything. My father and co-founder instilled in me that it’s not over until YOU give up. We’ve been willing to adapt and recognize that like the market, strategy and positioning are always in flux and never exactly what you planned for. We’ve pivoted at least four times to get to where we are today.
What’s been the biggest surprise while launching this company?
The biggest surprise for me was that it has taken close to four years to get to this point and it is still only the beginning to what Blue will become in a world of internet of things. I really thought when we started that in six or nine months we’d be done “developing” and we’d be doing nothing but growing through marketing.
The biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me during this whole process was staying positive, even after 150 plus investors declined to invest in Blue early on. All the people we knew with the means to invest were too risk averse. It was hard to accept that it wasn’t personal. And it was quite discouraging to learn that professional angel investors turned out to mostly be interested in scaling a successful going concern, not “investing” in an idea or vision that had not yet fully materialized. Ten minute pitches don’t do justice to the startup process.
Times were tough but my parents, family and friends believed in me and my vision, and my parents continued to finance the business, investing triple the originally planned amount until we finally made revenue late last summer.
What’s the #1 skill you think entrepreneurs need to succeed?
The number one skill I believe entrepreneurs need is patience. When building any company it can easily take over 5 years to become successful.
Most of the time entrepreneurs will give up when they’re only three feet from gold.
What’s your team culture like?
Our team culture is very important: we collaborate, share knowledge, communicate and most importantly support one another. That’s not to say we don’t have our share of heated discussions, but when my team feels supported and knows that someone has their back they're able to do great things.
What is your superpower?
My superpower is invulnerability. It’s not what matters outside, but inside that controls you. This happens when I'm talking with investors who don’t believe in the vision. It motivates me even more!
What’s your kryptonite?
My biggest weakness is my own self-limiting beliefs of what I can and can’t do. Intellectually I realize you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. But the stories we tell ourselves that often originate from others can sometimes inhibit what we believe we can do. I know there are physical and mental limits to each person’s unique God given talents; we can’t be literally anything we want to be, but we can be the best at anything we can be. The key is pushing oneself to the edges of our capabilities to find those limits and being grateful for who each of us individually are. My father’s favorite saying is “Bring your best to the moment,” and that’s all I can ask of myself and our team.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do? What do you geek out about?
I love to read and do personal development to learn more about myself and others. My favorite book is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
Do you have any mentors or people you look up to?
My biggest mentor is my father, Jose Sr. He’s been a role model for me since I was a kid and has helped shape me into the man I am today. He has been my backbone for Blue not just mentally, but financially since the beginning in 2016.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Just do it!