Mike Rhodes is the founder and CEO of myabui.com. Launched in the summer of 2009, myabui.com is one of the fastest growing social networks and remains the only fully encrypted micro-blogging platform available to businesses, nonprofits and consumers alike. In 2009 it won the Cisco "Startup of the Year" award in the social media category.
Rhodes also started Chicago’s Synch Technology Center, which hosts weekly meetings for potential Chicago entrepreneurs and encourages Generation Y techies to make a 60-second pitch for support for their business idea. Through these efforts, Rhodes' program has created 40 jobs in eight weeks. The tech center has 100 desks and supplies space at below-market prices for local tech startups.
Prior to launching myabui, Rhodes was the founder and CEO of Freedrive.com, a leader in consumer online data storage and sharing. FreeDrive grew to 20 million subscribers in just 18 months and took on investing partners Motorola, EDS and EMC before the property was sold to AOL.
He also spent two years as a full time volunteer helping people who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
Rhodes tells BusinessNewsDaily about the challenges of turning a good technology into a viable business. He also shares what he learned from his Katrina experience.
BusinessNewsDaily: What's the biggest challenge in getting a technology from idea to business?
Mike Rhodes: Having the right network. I could have the greatest technology known to man and unless I have a network – a group of connected accomplices driven to develop and bring my vision to life – it will go nowhere. It is emphatically the team of people who surround an idea that defines its level of success. The greatest challenge in transforming an idea into a viable business is not “what” but “who.”
BND: What's the most important thing entrepreneurs should remember when making an elevator pitch?
M.R.: "What’s in it for the investor ?" Few elevator riders care about the background, journey or challenges behind the opportunity. They instead want to know how high the ride may go, and the degree of risk that the car will fall. Quickly describe the solution to an existing problem, draw the big market picture, and explain how the investor will profit from taking a risk.
BND: What technologies are getting the most interest from investors right now?
M.R.: Anything “disruptive” or “game changing” – almost anything 2.0/3.0/real-time and mobile . Most important, investors are looking for an opportunity to be involved in properties that can be proven or disproven quickly and cheaply. Groupon – the fastest-growing company ever – was developed in WordPress to prove concept.
BND: How important is it for entrepreneurs to network with others, even those who are competitors?
M.R.: There is nothing more important than networking to an entrepreneur. I might point out that personal networking trumps online networking exponentially. And I have found over the years that getting to be close with “competitors,” and transparently sharing ideas, increases the success ratio for everybody. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.
BND: What does Gen Y bring to the table that previous generations didn't?
M.R.: I have great optimism for what Gen Y will bring to the global table and the digital revolution. They seem to have a special ability to understand and simplify approaches to challenges, combined with a strong work ethic. Gen Y appreciates the task that lies ahead of them and seems eager to embrace the opportunity.
BND: What, specifically, about the experience of working with Katrina survivors drove you to this career?
M.R.: I was in this career long before Katrina, but the crisis taught me a lot about business – and life itself. In particular, the experience reopened my eyes to two important truths: First, every individual, regardless of background and current situation, has the potential to restart his or her life and make a substantive impact on humanity. Second, the network of support that we create in life prepares us to overcome any obstacles we may face, no matter how big. Supporting those in human crisis is no different than working toward an entrepreneurial goal. Believe in the human spirit – passion – and expand and leverage your support network to make things happen.