August 20, 2010
Jordan Kretchmer started his own company focused on building web applications for brands ranging from Subaru to Match.com when he was 17. Years later he had several substantial roles at leading creative agencies under his belt, and became the vice president of brand at Current TV. After years of working on products that connect with the audience, Jordan noticed that something was missing and he wanted to patch the hole. So, he left his solid position and launched LiveFyre, a conversation platform that makes comments more a social. LiveFyre now has funding, is in private beta and ready to take on the comment industry. Below Jordan shares with us how he decided to go from an influential job with a solid paycheck to running a startup, and what he believes are the keys to being a successful entrepreneur.
TC: What’s your story?
Jordan: My story is fairly typical. I started a web UI and identity design company when I was 16, got terrible grades in high school because of it, started artdirecting and designing digital projects for ad agencies, decided to go to college for some reason, never stopped working, dropped out of college because of it, moved to Boston where I was VP, Associate Creative Director at a big agency, moved to San Francisco for a Creative Director position at another big agency, then took the VP of Brand gig at Current TV. At Current is when I decided I really missed running my own company, so I started Livefyre to solve what I think is a huge issue on the web today.
TC: How did you transition from an art director and brand specialist to a technology startup entrepreneur?
Jordan: I’ve always straddled the line between tech and design. At a young age I had a feeling this whole internet thing was going to be big, so I learned to code – I sucked at it – so I started focusing more on the design/UX side of tech. I only gravitated towards the advertising/marketing side of things because 1) I understood it and was good at it and 2) The budgets from big clients are intoxicating. It was a way for me to do a bunch of cool stuff I dreamed up using someone else’s money. At 18 years old that’s pretty cool.
TC: How did you decided to leave a large thriving corporation and create a startup?
Jordan: The last job I had while I was at CurrentTV was to find an ad agency to execute on marketing strategies I’d been planning. The agency search process is historically littered with secrecy, politics, and bureaucracy, and it’s extremely unfair to agencies. So I decided to do the entire agency search in public on Twitter and dubbed it “TwitteRFP” (Google search for the details). The process was incredible, frantic, collaborative, disorganized, overwhelming, and inspiring. I think it’s the most meaningful work-oriented thing I’ve ever done outside of Livefyre. Anyway, the higher-ups at Current decided to cancel the agency search for budgetary and other equally as depressing reasons, so I left to work full-time on Livefyre.
TC: What have you learned along the way that you wish you knew before your started your own company?
Jordan: Everything takes longer than you’d expect. Not weeks longer, but months and even years longer. Startup time is like being in the twilight zone. Weeks are gone and you have very little recollection of what went down. Once you realize that (it took me way too long), then you can plan differently and put mechanisms in place that help you organize better. But damn, it’s hellish for a while.
TC: What are the key attributes of a successful entrepreneur?
Jordan: Persistance, humility, confidence, insanity.
TC: What would you say to a budding entrepreneur?
Jordan: In the words of ad writer Dan Wieden, one of my favorite ad men of all time…Just do it.
TC: What motivated you to create Livefyre?
Jordan: I wanted to bring conversations back to content, and make them just as important and interesting as the content itself. I wanted to create a system that encourages better, more human, conversations, and I think we’re well on our way to delivering on that.
TC: What is LiveFyre?
Jordan: Livefyre is a conversation platform. It replaces the old-school, 1999-style comment sections on any site with a live social action and comment stream. It increases the quality and quantity of conversation that takes place on site content. And finally, it brings all of your social connections with you to each site you’re on, regardless of whether your friends have ever even been to that site before. And that’s just for now, we have some really cool surprises up our sleeves on the product front.
TC: Why should someone use Livefyre over any other comment application?
1) Speed. Our Live comment stream is actually live, no other competitor has a live stream, they just say they do. They poll a database every now and then sometimes only pulling new comments in every 3 minutes. Which we see as a really long time, not real-time.
This is an important distinction, because it means that Livefyre is the only comment platform that supports any conversation use case (standard asynchronous comments, live chat, live blogging, live conference back-channel, Q&A, etc etc). And it’s the only one that does it all while posting content directly to the html layer of content, making the entire thing Google crawl-able. Today’s web should truly move in real-time, and only Livefyre delivers on that.
2) Quality. Livefyre is the only platform that actively assigns and displays quality scores of commenters based on their ratings within communities around the entire web, their Klout score, and other variables. We then take it a step further by allowing bloggers to filter the comments on their site based on the overall ratings of the people commenting. Reputation management, personas, identity, and anonymity are extremely important to us, so there are dozens of features just for those things. Check out my blog post about identity and reputation for a deeper look at our approach and beliefs: http://blog.livefyre.com/you-owe-us-1-for-your-thoughts/
3) Stability and technology. Livefyre is built on XMPP ie. chat technology, the same thing that iChat, Gchat, and Jabber are built on. We gain massive efficiencies when distributing thousands of messages simultaneously around the web, which means our app is more stable at large scale and is extremely light-weight when loading.
4) Search. All comments on any site around the web are plugged into Livefyre real-time search. Meaning more people will find your content and join your conversations.
5) Price. There will always be a free, live-stream version of Livefyre. All of our competitors charge for their “live” feature.
Image courtesy of Melody McCloskey.
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