John Arrow is the CEO of Mutual Mobile. Based in Austin, Texas, Mutual Mobile creates mobile solutions for brands, including Audi, Google, Xerox and Citi, among other clients. This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Arrow shares about getting started, turning your first profit and focusing on the present.
Sam's Dream Blog: You wrote an e-book by age 14. How important do you think it is for children or teens to get their hands in technology early on?
John Arrow: What’s so amazing today is, you walk into a coffee shop or an airport, and you see these little kids using iPads, which is insane to think about. There are kids today starting with technology when they’re literally one or two. Before they can talk or walk, they’re using the next paradigm of technology. Starting that early on means that the technology becomes almost an extension of yourself.
If you’re familiar with Malcolm Gladwell and the 10,000 hours outlier rule, that’s something we certainly subscribe to. If you can get those 10,000 hours in before you’re 20, it certainly makes a huge difference if you want to make a career out of it.
SDB: When you were thinking about turning your first profit, you focused on making $1, then $10. What is it about you that allows you to be patient, rather than thinking, I have to make a whole bunch of money right away?
SDB: Is the key to that approach having a good test group?
John Arrow: I would say the best way is following the scientific method. You might have a strong intuition that there’s something there, that there’s a strong chance of success, but you don’t know yet. How can you design a hypothesis that can be very quickly proved or disproved? How do you boil it down and test it out? A lot of times you can do it as simply as buying some Google AdWords or some Facebook Ads and seeing if your offering is compelling enough to get people to click it. If it is, there’s probably something there. Why don’t you try taking it a few steps further? You can do these steps that help you to avoid making any large capital investment early on. I’m really bullish on people testing something for almost free, and then figuring out how to scale it.
SDB: Is gaining credibility difficult early on?
John Arrow: From a new business perspective, I don’t think it needs to be. As long as you’re not selling $10 million deals from day one and you’re doing more stepping stones, credibility isn’t an issue. If you look at Mutual Mobile, we’ve worked with progressively larger and larger companies, and we’ve solved more difficult and more complex projects. It doesn’t need to be a goal to work with a Fortune 100 company from day one. It should be a goal to say, "How can I prove the model? How can I deliver value to a customer early on?" If you do that, it’s only a smaller leap of faith to work with a bigger company on a more complex issue. Fortunately, there are customers that exist at all stages. That means you shouldn’t have a credibility issue if you can figure out the appropriate starting point.
SDB: I read about your sailboat called Present Moment. How have you learned to balance staying present vs. thinking about the future?
John Arrow: [Recently] we had this horrible wind storm here in Austin. On the lake, the wind hit the marina especially hard. Half a dozen sailboats sank, including Present Moment. I think the question is still a very good question. I think [staying present] is the only way to operate and to be happy. You can’t bank on being happy at a future date. That’s a bit of a mirage. It’s good to have goals, but if you’re waiting on those external goals to determine your happiness, you’re wasting your days now. It’s incredibly important to enjoy the journey.
Especially with a new company, when you’re spending 10 to 15 hours a day working, if you’re not happy doing that, you’re wasting a huge chunk of your life, and you should probably go do something else. There’s going to be hard moments, but you have to power through those. If you’re truly unhappy doing something, go find another present moment.