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InnovaBuzz Episode #63 – James Eder – Causr

James Eder Causr

James Eder – Causr App Founder

In this episode, my guest is James Eder founder of Causr, an app that helps people connect.  We talked about the challenges of starting up a new business and transforming an idea into a viable and sustainable business model, as well as why it is important to get out of your comfort zone and connect with new people.

James is a very impressive and inspiring individual, who is on a mission to make a difference in the world, by enabling more people to connect.

In fact, to help him with this mission, we are issuing a challenge today – if you choose to accept this challenge (no it is NOT Mission Impossible!), you may well get a special prize, as well as great rewards as outlined in our interview.   Stay tuned later in the podcast, where I’ll outline the details of your mission!   Don’t worry, this tape will NOT self destruct in 60 seconds!

Listen to the Podcast

Imagine if you couldn't fail, who would you be, where would you go and what would you do? Click To Tweet

Show Highlights

Some of the highlights of this episode with James Eder of Causr include:

  • Speak to people you wouldn’t normally speak to – challenge is one new person a day!  Making new connections can lead to new opportunities.  The Causr app, enables new “random” connections with people nearby, by providing the permission, the confidence and the context, to speak with other people.
  • The best way to generate new ideas is to expand your horizons and the best way to do that is to speak to different people, you wouldn’t normally speak to.
  • Failure can’t exist with persistence.  When confronted with a setback, step back and ask how you can achieve your desired outcome by doing something different.  Take on board the message from The Naked Leader by David Taylor “Imagine if you knew you could not fail…..who would you be, where would you go and what would you do?”
  • Focus ideas on providing value for the user and providing a great user experience – opportunities for generating revenue will come from that.
  • Break down major projects and focus on the very next thing that you can do to move forward.  Whilst is sounds banal, that is key to innovation.
@jameseder - Lot's of great connections get missed because we don't speak to people! #InnovaBuzz… Click To Tweet

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are James’ answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Watch the interview to get the full scoop.

  • #1 thing to be more innovative – Speak to people you wouldn’t normally speak to – challenge is one new person a day!
  • Best thing for new ideas – Speak to more people! By teaching, you learn – challenge yourself!
  • Favourite tool for innovation – GTD system by David Allen.
  • Keep project / client on track – Focus on the goal or outcome.
  • Differentiate – Be authentic. Be yourself. Be confident in you.

To Be a Leader

With new ventures, develop a list of experiments to run – run them as quickly as possible to see what works.  Fail fast, but keep going.  Always keep users in mind.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank James via LinkedIn (mention this podcast), and Twitter – @jameseder.

Suggested Guest

James suggested I interview David Taylor, who is the author of The Naked Leader, on a future InnovaBuzz podcast.  So, David keep an eye on your inbox, for an invitation from me to the InnovaBuzz podcast, courtesy of James Eder.

Links

Books:

Speak to people you don't know - challenge is one new person a day! @jameseder on #InnovaBuzz… Click To Tweet

Full Transcript

Click to Read…

Intro:

Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. Welcome to Episode No 63 of the InnovaBuzz Podcast – designed to help smart businesses with an interest in innovation become even more innovative.

In this episode, my guest is James Eder from London in the UK.  He is the founder of Causr, an app that helps people connect, and co-founder of Student Beans and The Beans Group.  

We talked about the challenges of starting up a new business and transforming an idea into a viable and sustainable business, as well as why it is important to get out of your comfort zone and connect with new people.

James is a very impressive and inspiring individual, who is on a mission to make a difference in the world, by enabling more people to connect.   

In fact, to help him with this mission, we are issuing a challenge today – if you choose to accept this challenge (no it is NOT Mission Impossible!), you may well get a special prize, as well as great rewards as outlined in our interview.  Stay tuned later in the podcast, where I’ll outline the details of your mission!  Don’t worry, this tape will NOT self destruct in 60 seconds!

So, without further ado, let’s fly into the Hive and get the Buzz from James Eder.

 

Interview:

Jürgen:
Hi I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz and I’m honored to have here with me today, on this episode of the Innovabuzz podcast all the way from London in the U.K., James Eder. He’s the founder and Chief Collision Creator as he calls it, of Causr and he does have an interesting background and I’m really pleased to have you here today James. So welcome to the podcast.

James:
It’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Jürgen:
Now James actually reached out to us and invited himself to the podcast so I don’t have to give a shout out to anybody else, but a shout out back to you James. I did some research on James obviously and I must say you’re a very impressive individual! James at the age of 22 started what now is The Beans Group which has grown from an idea to connect brands with tertiary students in twenty four countries, now, it’s probably more than that and what they do is offer students discount on branded products and at the same time they connect brands with what ultimately could become a life-long loyal fan base and The Beans Group also runs the marketing business Voxburner which hosts conferences for brands in major cities like New York, London, Berlin and Singapore and recently you’ve launched the Causr app.

First of all tell us a little bit more about The Beans Group because I think the history of that is relevant to how Causr came about, right?

James:
Yes definitely. I think what’s really interesting is I was 22 and was about to graduate from university, a lot of friends and others said you know you’re too young to set up a business, you don’t have experience, how can you possibly manage people in order to meet different challenges.

Fortunately some were more supportive than others, including my parents, who were absolutely brilliant and I think that the context was absolutely how can we help students save money and how we can help businesses promote to university students. That was twelve years ago, back in 2005 and the original premise was getting people kind of offline, online and then offline again and we didn’t rely on any paid search. We didn’t rely on any Facebook ads or anything at the time; it was very much about kind of building a brand.

I literally went door to door both on the company side, I knocked on doors and I went into shops and services restaurants, etc and then in the daytime as well, went to students and standing in the right places on student campus. I was extremely excited about this idea of how we can help you save money and how we can help businesses grow and just from grassroots back in 2005 we signed up 15,000 users and then 50,000 users in second year and a 150,000 users. Since we started we’ve signed up, it’s very maybe three million users now and I look back and it’s interesting, for starting again a new venture eleven years on and the getting you know it’s just the beginning again and at the same time we’re doing so well, it’s great to have the kind of the foundation we built.

It was really difficult and I think the couple of scenarios that lead to Causr today – one of them is actually sitting on the underground in London, which we know is not necessarily the friendliest of places if your listeners have been to London.

I broke all norms of social convention and saw someone with a CV in their hand sitting next to me so I just asked, are you looking for a job. He said yes. I said have you heard of Student Beans. He said Yes, I just graduated from Durham. I said, look I’m the founder, I’m getting off on the next stop, if you want to give me your CV, if there’s an opportunity, I’ll give you a call. He gave me his CV. I called him up. He came in for an interview. He interviewed really well and at the end of the interview he asks are you guys publishing a book. At the time we were looking to publish a book around student cooking and helping students cooking and I say yeah how did you know that because we haven’t published it yet and he said Oh my girlfriend from Durham Uni is working at a publishing company on your book deal.

So he ended up getting a job with us and you know, it got me thinking that what stops a lot of those conversations…

Jürgen:
Yeah

James:
…and types of connections happening because often we don’t say anything and we just kind of carry on in our daily lives.

Jürgen:
That’s right. It’s like you get into an elevator and everybody looks at the wall or the ceiling

James:
Absolutely. Do you have a story? Do you have any stories like that? In terms of like serendipity or that you’ve met people in that kind of scenario?

Jürgen:
I can’t really think of one off the top of my head but there’s often times when I think that was meant to happen and you reflect back… It’s a little bit like your story where you failed at something and you’re devastated at the time but then years…well actually first of all you did something else that was a huge success as a result, but also years later that came back and ended up being another opportunity so it’s kind of like, ‘Okay that was in the right time so it came back later well yes I’ve got a few like that.’

James:
Definitely. And I think building on that story, I guess I was standing in the office speaking to a colleague about a Virgin company called Virgin Activity Days which is powered by another company called ACORN and I said I really need to speak someone at ACORN. It would be great to build a partnership with them. Ten minutes later I was standing there to go speak on the student platform. I can’t hear something over the PA, so I turned to the guy next to me and short version of the story, he ended up being the exact person I needed to meet and that was within 10 minutes of that original conversation saying this who I need to meet. So again, I thought, what stops those conversations. At that time I was traveling a huge amount for work and being often alone eating dinner, thinking there must be a better way of how we can help people connect instead of being by myself that maybe there are other people nearby that I could connect with or eat with. Whether they are waiting at an airport or indeed a destination perhaps before attending a conference or event it would be really useful.

If I take a step back, before I graduated I ended up applying for a job for an organization called ISEC which is a global student organization and they’d invested a huge amount in me and I ended up going to the Philippines and Columbia on work placement and when I graduated I really wanted to make a difference and add value so I ended up standing for an election for something. They were ten of us standing for five positions and in that moment I didn’t get that job and unlike most applications where we get a letter in the post or an email telling us about our lack of success, this was a very public display of failure. There were 300 people in the room and a jug of water, it sounds very fraternity, a jug of water was dropped over the successful candidates. So there I am, standing there in front of my closest friends and in that, I guess it was a moment of failure and really thinking what is it that I want to do.

Now failure can’t exist with persistence and I think that scares people, sometimes it confuses people. So I did fail in that moment, but if you take a step back and perhaps if listeners are presented with these challenges, is what you really want to do, what you really want to achieve and can you achieve that by doing something else perhaps?

And I think that was that was a really powerful sentiment for me. The other thing that happened there, a friend of mine bought me a book called “The Naked Leader” by a guy called David Taylor and in the book it has very simple, yet powerful message, ‘Imagine if you couldn’t fail, who would you be, where would you go and what would you do?’

Despite certain friends saying I couldn’t do it and I was too young and all of this. I thought I have to go and set up this business. It’s not going to fail, this is what I’ve got to do and I think the same reasons as why I had to create Causr. I was ten years into Student Beans and into The Beans Group. There was so much that we’d done really well and as I found, running a company and setting it up are two such different things and I think the founder syndrome – often you maybe stay longer than you should be there – recruiting people that are better than you and helping provide structure to allow the team to grow and fortunately I co-founded that business with my brother.

I was able to trust him to know that he wanted to do the best for the business and that it was the right thing for me at the time to move on to something new. It was important for me to go and explore and discover. I’m still on that journey in a way to discover the next stage.

Jürgen:
There’s so many things to learn about that story. What you’ve just said and the themes that I’ve read in the meantime. I’ve been doing a little bit of research all day today so it’s late in the afternoon for me and I’ve been looking forward to this interview all day. There’s a chap here who started off the Beechworth Bakery and now that’s franchised around, it’s a hugely successful business. He has sold the business or a large part of it and handed over management. He does speaking and motivational speeches. He’s a very funny guy and he’s very insightful as well. One of the things he says is, ‘Beware the nay sayers and don’t let the dream takers take your dreams away.’ I think there’s a similar message in what you’re saying, in that people say, well you are young and you can’t start that up and you ignored them and went ahead anyway. So it is a level of self belief and in a story of looking at things that happen to you and seeing opportunities in that and then building out those opportunities with that mindset of “what if you can’t fail”.

James:
Absolutely.

Jürgen:
Yeah I love it! Were you always entrepreneurial and adventurous as a young kid?

James:
Yeah I think so. In England we used to have something called Blue Peter, which they still have and they had these bring and buy sales, where you could bring stuff and sell stuff and I think that was a little bit ingrained in me and then…..

Jürgen:
[chuckles]

James:
I think when I was thirteen we set up M&J Photos, the first venture with my brother, where we took photos of dogs in the park and then went back the following day and sold the pictures.

Jürgen:
Before digital right?

James:
I was gonna say before digital, before everyone had a camera on their phone. I ended up taking photos when it was a really snowy day and really beautiful, but then trying to develop the film myself in the darkroom, the negatives went wrong and I just didn’t have the patience for it, so I got distracted and moved on in moments.

When I was seventeen I did something called Young Enterprise in England. It was 1999 and we created a website – we need a number – which is a web directory service. So all of these experiences, I guess my favorite mode is learning by doing, so many people contact me nowadays asking me for mentoring and feedback on their idea, and should they do it – the most technical people and educated. It’s great, but there’s very much a disconnect between how you learn about something and actually going out and doing it, and the learnings you get even if it doesn’t work, I think it’s about learning and making decisions and moving forward. Life’s a journey, I guess and people forget.

Jürgen:
That’s right. And it’s not going to wait around is it?

James:
Absolutely.

Jürgen:
We kind of glossed over it – Causr is an app that helps create connections between people that are on the go; it’s for professionals and I think it works on a proximity thing, but tell us a little bit more about Causr and how it works and what you’ve learned out of the launch. I think it’s on iTunes but I just registered for the Android app so I’m looking forward to trying it myself when that’s released.

James:
[laugh] I think what’s interesting is the idea, as I said, ‘What stops those opportunities happening while connecting with people nearby and whether that be randomly on the train, or even at work. So many offices and silos and people kind of just sit there, in their little bubbles and they don’t connect. They are kind of three core pillars that we’ve identified and the first one is permission. Often we don’t feel like we’ve got permission just to randomly…and I know Australians are much more friendly perhaps than we are traditionally, perception wise but we are friendly once you break the ice and I think the key thing that stops us is permission..

And the second one is confidence. If you think about it like when you attend maybe a networking event, you’ve got permission to speak to each other much more than you do on the street. I guess it’s a safer environment in the room than out in the street as it were.

Jürgen:
Yeah

James:
But some people will leave having met lots of people in the room and other people will leave having met a few people. There’s some great TED talks about the power of the introverts and listening to me, I’m not probably a very introverted person but this confidence builds over time and so the second thing is confidence, one of the challenges that stops people.

The third thing is context and I think context is a really interesting one because if I knew I was sitting next to an entrepreneur that had just set up a business or I was sitting next to, I mean even to say even an accountant or even a recruiter who (we generally do not work with recruiters unfortunately) but even if there’s a moment where I’m sitting in proximity, I would be more open to having a conversation with that person just to find out more.. If they cold called or emailed me, I’d be much more reserved, but if I had that context, so whether that be mentioned by another entrepreneur or an investor – if I just had that bit of information I’d be more confident because I knew what to say it could be like, ‘Oh hey you’re an investor? I’m actually running a startup. Would you mind having a chat?’ And also they probably get bombarded all the time. So in this scenario it might be interesting and they might take that meeting or have that conversation which otherwise they wouldn’t.

So those are the three key pillars of Causr. I’ll just repeat again, it’s permission, confidence and context. And so then the idea was how can we create an app that enables people and ultimately by being on the app people give permission, because people won’t be on the app unless they’re interested in connecting. From a confidence perspective it’s ultimately using technology to enable a face-to-face connection, otherwise you would necessarily have the confidence to say and I do this all the time still, despite my kind of outgoingness speaking to people. There’s just so many situations where I kind of sit thinking, ‘Oh what should I say? What happens if other people hear me?’ The last time recently I was flying through an airport and I landed and I was waiting for passport control. You know these these lines, I was just waiting and waiting.

Jürgen:
Yeah

James:
The perfect opportunity, though in my mind is to test my assumptions, I started talking to the guy next to me, “Oh hey, do you mind if I show you a demo. I’m working in this new thing,’ and I showed him and he said this is brilliant.

I’m often waiting in airports because I fly in for a meeting in a company and then I go straight back to the airport and even if I’ve got four hours till my flight, there’s no point me going exploring the city because otherwise I might miss my flight. So I was so anxious about showing other people because of the fear the other people in the line would laugh at me. And actually when I’d be doing it more often than not other people said, ‘Oh that’s a great idea’ and that would start a conversation.

So you know that’s the premise behind the app and instead of being another digital network created online, it’s actually about using proximity so you download the app, you can log in using LinkedIn, so it pulls your name, your job title and it gives other people a bit of context about you, so that’s the first piece of context.

The second piece of context is you could update your status to let others know what you are looking for and also how you could help. I think this is really a key in creating a community that really enables people to connect authentically, in a way that can be really useful to one another. If I knew someone else nearby looking for help, their starting a new company or wants mentoring or indeed I’m recruiting currently for a technical co-founder; I may have passed the key person that I would never have known and they wouldn’t know that I’m looking so that’s the second piece of context.

And the third thing is about joining groups. You can join a group. We’ve actually got one for the Australian entrepreneurs, for example, or you’ve got one for marathon running. And it transcends social business. We’ve also got group for big companies and organizations and if there is not group that you can see, that you want to join, you can then request a group. And we’ll create those for you. So those are the three big pieces of context that enable people to connect.

So very simply, you login, you can see who is nearby and you request to connect with people and then within the app, you can chat. And the idea is, because you are close to each other, the opportunity is there to meet and to connect. That could be to just share a coffee, and a one off thing, or it could be to do a business deal or recruit someone. That’s the premise. We’ve already had someone do a half a million pound business deal as a result using the app! It’s so exciting to hear that feedback, people creating connections.

Jürgen:
That’s great story, the big business deal that’s closed and I like your story about standing in the queues of the airlines. When I was in the corporate world, I spent probably 25 years traveling the world, a third of the year traveling the world and a lot of people would say, ‘Oh you’ve got great lifestyle.You travel all these different countries, get to see all these different places and my thought was always, ‘Yeah but if all this time I spend time standing in queues at the airport, taxi queues, check-in queues, hotels and checkout and so on… because the other people standing in those queues, probably 80% of them are business people as well, connecting with them and having that permission to have a conversation to start of a relationship would be great.

James:
Absolutely. Whilst I can share the stories of the known connections, known opportunities that have happened, I’m sure there are hundreds if not thousands of connections or misconnections, not just for myself but for everyone. I think because the context if so powerful, a lot of people are quite afraid, because people don’t know just a bit of context of the people nearby. I think one of the challenges in the world is that the community has lost a lot of what it used to have and I’m on a bit of a mission to bring that back and make a difference.

Jürgen:
That’s great. I was just listening earlier today to a speech you gave a couple of years ago at Birmingham University. It was a graduation speech. I enjoyed your speech. You emphasized how important it was to ask for help if you’re doing something – ask for help because you can’t do everything yourself. And so this is a way to connect with people that might be able to help you. You’ve got your network of people you know, your family, your friends, business associates that you can ask for help. If you need something outside of that network – expertise or knowledge outside of that, then this might be a way to actually broaden your network.

James:
Definitely.

Jürgen:
I really like it. So Causr is available on iTunes app store and we’ll have a link to that in the shownotes so those people who use an iPhone or I guess it probably works on the iPad as well, you can download and use it.

James:
You could download the app on the iPad. Interestingly you need to make sure you select not just iPad only because at the moment it’s optimized for the iPhone and just so I can put your listeners at ease, why is it only on the iPhone just yet.

Jürgen:
That was going to be my next question because being an Android user..

James:
The reason why is we had originally a web app and 80% of our test users were originally on iPhones. That’s one reason. The other thing I think around development and we secured a round Angel funding back in April and I think it’s launching something and I think every innovator in their mind thinks, this is it, this is how it’s going to be, it’s what I think. But it’s about learning and integrating. So we’ve we put out and are using it to get feedback. The Android version is something definitely that we do want to launch and it’s definitely in the pipeline. It’s on the road map. So bear with us.

Jürgen:
[chuckles]

James:
If you’ve got a friend that’s got an iPhone, beg, borrow or ask them to sign up because that will also really help and as you’ve already done, you can go pre-register for the Android app. If you go to Causr.com and if you pre-register and put your email address in there, that actually also helps from an investor’s perspective, they’ll say, ‘Hey look! We’ve already got x number of people say they want it on Android’ and so that also helps on the next journey.

Jürgen:
So I definitely encourage listeners that are on the Apple platforms to download the app and try it out, see what you think of it. I’d be interested to hear the feedback from users and those that, like me are on Android, sign up on the website that we’ll link to. It’s Causr.com but we’ll link to that in the show notes and put your email in there to register your interest, as James said that’s all going to help get funding.

So I was interested because it is a free app, right?

James:
Yes.

Jürgen:
I was interested in what’s your revenue generating model and how you’re going to sustain it in the long term.

James:
Absolutely. So yeah I think what’s really key. One of the things we were speaking about, what differentiates? How you can successfully that lead a successful business? I think you need a focus – Student Beans started with the user in mind and really focused on what adds value and then you know the opportunities for monetization will come and I think that it’s the same with getting Causr, around opportunities, that we really want to add value and make a difference. We are saying our ambition is to create millions of meaningful connections between people nearby all around the world every day.

To me it’s how can we do that and obviously do that in a sustainable way and sustainably doesn’t seem like a number of opportunities around. We’re looking to introduce a free and a premium version and again it tells exactly what features will be shown and it will be up to the users in terms of from a value proposition of the things that they found useful. One of them for example is filtering and at the moment, we’re very much focused around serendipity, in wanting to not do a search function. Interestingly we’ve got different tags. So for example if you click on Australian entrepreneurs, it will then show you who’s nearby, who’s interested in that ecosystem or indeed Australian entrepreneurs. So there is a filtering of sorts, but you can’t, for example, say I don’t want to see C.E.O.’s, right? I don’t want to see people in marketing, etc, etc. So that’s just a glimpse of some of the things, but the business model is very clear from that. There are also other innovative forms of advertising that obviously we want to stay away from. You can see in the app. Today it is very clean and clear but those are the suggestions of where we’re going to go but it’s still it’s starting with these dreams, because without using it, we’re not going to get very far.

Jürgen:
Yeah so that’s a little bit like the LinkedIn model I guess.

James:
Yeah there are definitely similarities to that and I think we’re very clear today, we don’t want to be a another feed you need to check or a full LinkedIn profile or anything like that. It’s about the utility and that’s to allow me to take in everything – people, it’s headlines, context, very quickly and who’s nearby. There are tried and true business models out there. That’s not to say it’s easy because it’s definitely not. The world of free, has been created for us. It’s difficult to kind of push past that, but I think I’m confident that there’s definitely an opportunity for us to to get that.

Jürgen:
That’s great. So what do you say is the biggest trap or the biggest hurdle that innovators encounter when they come up with ideas like this and they’re trying to sell them or trying to get funding as you’ve been doing for Causr?

James:
Yeah I think the biggest challenge I guess if you don’t have those friends, I think doing it the second time was like, okay what’s the next step? What’s the action? What’s the thing that I can do that can help move this forward and I think a lot of people get trapped in a world of, ‘Oh I’ve tried right down there so I think it’s kind of too overwhelming and to pick a topic and so I really think it is about taking a step back and think. ‘Okay, what can I do today? What’s the emphasis? What are the inputs I can do that will get me closer to where I want to be?’ and I don’t know about you, but sometimes you do things you think you’ve said it a lot or you tried to do it a lot, but actually if you look back, maybe you’ve only sent one email and you’ve just thought about it a lot and so every day you think, ‘Oh they’ve not responded, but actually it’s because you’ve sent just one message.

Jürgen:
[laugh] Yeah

James:
[laugh] So I think you know whether it be in email or a phone call, the thing is I can say, I as an entrepreneur am always thinking about Causr and what we’re doing moving forward. What can be done and it’s just not that important for other people and so it is not on their frame every second of the day. I’ve had a few things where I’ve been speaking to community organizers and event organizers and I think that this is a great app, that we can help communities connect with existing communities. That’s the other thing from a listener’s perspective. If you could have a community you want to help connect. Imagine if you were sitting again on that bus stop. You’re waiting for a flight out of Melbourne or Sydney. If you need someone else nearby who is also from your community, would that be an interesting conversation?

Jürgen:
Hmmnnn

James:
If it is, that’s the type of community that we would love to help connect. I mean that could be an alumni network. That could be a big organization; you said when you’re traveling that you may have people from your company nearby that you could end up sharing the taxi with, instead of eating dinner by yourself, you could’ve connected with people. That is an amazing thing. It’s an opportunity that we have.

How can I stop that and so from innovation perspective getting to break down the work. What’s the next action? What’s the next thing I can do to help me move forward?

Jürgen:
I can imagine that groups might well be a quicker uptake. We’re all on these groups in LinkedIn or in Facebook. We have conversations online there and I’ve seen this actually happen where somebody in particular on Facebook, where somebody they knew in private or whether at some event or so on and another person in that same group will come back saying, ‘Oh my God! You were at that event. If I’d only known I could have connected and we could’ve met in person and so on, so that’s something that Causr could bring about.

James:
Absolutely and I think what’s so interesting though speaking to a lot of communities at the moment is the questions: well why is this different from Slack? Why is this different from Facebook? Why is this different? And I think the difference is the location piece and it’s about helping people realize those opportunities and connecting and making it very easy to do that.

So we’re not trying to replicate any any of those other platforms. It’s just being like a really useful function. We don’t have a feed. Like I said, as an event or community organizer, you don’t need to update anything. Your community is just about really enabling them to connect face to face and that’s really the key.

Jürgen:
Yeah. It’s almost like an add-on to the communities that are already in place on Facebook or LinkedIn wherever they might be, right?

James:
Absolutely.

Jürgen:
Or as you say, the big global conglomerates or big companies, like I was for twenty odd years where people are traveling all the time. I bumped into people in the airport that I knew but I would venture to guess that there were probably, for every person that I bumped into, that I knew in a remote airport, half a dozen others from the same company that I hadn’t met before would be there too.

James:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Jürgen:
Alright this has been really terrific James.I think it’s time we move on to the Buzz which is our innovation round and it’s designed to help our audience who are all innovators and leaders in their fields and give them some tips from your experience. So I’m going to ask a series of five questions and hopefully you will give us some really insightful answers. I’m sure you will. That will inspire everyone and help them do something awesome!

James:
Cool. I’ll do what I can.

Jürgen:
What’s the number one thing you think that anyone needs to do to be more innovative?

James:
I think it’s about speaking to different people you wouldn’t normally talk to, because I think everyone has got a different perspective and different frame of mind, different mindset and I think when we are surrounded by the same people all the time, it’s difficult to get those different perspectives and take inspiration from anywhere in terms of having permission. You can blame me for any conversation – go up to someone while waiting in line or a lunch tomorrow or when you’re at work, go and meet different people. Go up and just say, ‘Hey I was listening to a podcast and the person on the other end from London said I should just go to speak to one new person a day so would you mind If I speak to you?’ And I promise that will open up doors, an opportunity, and I look forward to hearing all about them. It’s about just going out there and being brave and just trying and breaking the ice and see where it goes and don’t worry about it.

Jürgen:
Yeah that’s great advice and getting different perspectives to what you’d normally get, different inputs and so on, definitely expand your horizon and certainly can prompt new ideas. So I love that. A thought just went through my mind there. I was participating a while ago on a 30-day Facebook Live Challenge when Facebook Live first came out and the idea was around building a habit. If you do it 30 days in a row you get to know the thing and you build that habit. You do it more and more. So I was wondering whether we should, as a result of this podcast, call out the 30 Speak to a New Person a Day challenge.

James:
Sounds good.

Jürgen:
So we might do that. All right so What’s the best thing you’ve done to develop new ideas?

James:
I think it’s got to be related as well. I think speaking to people. When I on a holiday in Croatia and we went to a place called Hava, we went to the Hula Hula Bar, the sunset was coming down and we were having drinks. And I met someone who worked in an agency down in Bristol which is a few hours from London and a few years later she ended up messaging me on Linked In saying, ‘It was great to talk then and are you available to come and run a session for our company about entrepreneurship and getting into the headspace of an entrepreneur?’

It then led me to charge for that and put it this way, more than paid for the holiday, which was great. Also by teaching you learn a lot. I had to put together the content. It was meant to be a two hour session but I think I had enough content for two days, that I could have run and it was just amazing and I was so passionate. I care so much about entrepreneurship and helping other people realize what it is they can do and so when I deliver it, the feedback still years later I’ve met some of the team’s people that were in that session that said it was one of the best external sessions we’ve ever had. So I would say to listeners this is about challenge yourself to teach someone something. Always put forward, whatever you’re doing and teach it.

Jürgen:
Yeah great advice! A couple of my mentors actually say that quite a lot. If you think you know something, if you want to learn more about something that you know a little bit about, then teach it.

James:
Absolutely. Cool.

Jürgen:
Do you have a favorite tool or system for improving your own productivity in allowing you to be more innovative?

James:
The key one that springs to mind is Getting Things Done by David Allen. You know him? Are you familiar?

Jürgen:
Yeah. When did I discover that? It must have been in the early 90’s maybe even before that so it was very new, wasn’t as popular as it definitely is today. There weren’t a lot of computer tools around in those days so I read the book and I thought it was brilliant.

James:
So yeah friend of mine, someone in my old company introduced us to it and I ended up meeting David and he’s had an unbelievably inspiring, kind of journey and story. His system can really help on a day to day basis. For example, one quick hack that people aren’t aware of, if you’re away, rather than have your email inbox fill up, there are different ways of doing it, but to me a I got a waiting for folder in my inbox. So often what happens is you send an email out to someone and it stays in your mind and then you carry on with your day and what you’re doing and then whether it be weeks or months later, you’re like ‘Oh I sent an email and they didn’t come back to me’ and you forget it because it’s gone off your plate. So a very simple thing is just send yourself the email when you send and put it in a waiting for folder and say once a week, you just go through that folder and see if you’re still waiting for that response. And so when it comes back into your inbox you can see and this is using gmail but lots of other accounts have similar kind of systems and you can see waiting for it, that’s one thing but also if they have responded then you can do a quick follow up. And it’s just so useful and there’s these little things that make things more efficient. And that’s one of the quick tricks from Getting Things Done. It’s really made difference.

Jürgen:
That’s a great advice and I guess the philosophy of Getting Things Done. Email is a good analogy because typically people get a hundreds of emails everyday. They let them build up in their inbox and the inbox becomes a To Do list that just grows out of control and you see this mess of inbox and you get overwhelmed and you end up missing important stuff. So this idea you can transfer that into a physical situation or to do list or whatever – to get organized in various aspects of your life.

So the idea of David Allen is to get things out of that inbox and put them in places that will pop up when you need them. Not before. So in your mind there are ONLY the things that are important right now.

James:
Absolutely.

Jürgen:
What’s the best way you know to keep a project on track?

James:
I think it’s about looking for what’s the goal and I think it’s in the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – one of them start with the end of mind and I think that that’s really the keys. If you start with the end in mind, where you really want to go and in launching Causr in a way that we’ve done over the last few months, it’s really challenging and it’s thinking then what are the inputs to watch, as opposed to the vanity metrics number, like what are the things I can do today? You could relate to that if you’re a writer and you want to get a set amount of page impressions it’s about thinking ‘Okay. If I write one article that will get me a thousand page views. So if I want ten thousand page views, I need to write 10 articles.’ And what are the types of inputs you could do to make those things happen.

I think one of the challenges from a startup perspective, is there are so many things that you could do and you just don’t know, so it’s about failing fast and it’s about doing things and testing things and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

And then moving on, but I think going back to the question is having a clear end in mind of what it is and then work towards that.

Jürgen:
That’s a great advice. Begin with the end in mind, I love that. I say that all the time. I had a phone conversation this afternoon and somebody asked me ‘I want to set up a landing page’ and I said, ‘What’s the end goal of the landing page? What would you want to happen right at the end?’ And then ultimately we figured out that in 12 months time, she’s going to launch an online training course and she wants to start building a list for that. So I said, ‘Okay let’s work backwards from there. What are the steps because that landing page is just one of the steps and we’ll figure that out.’ But that’s great to keep that end in mind then as you move forward and as you mentioned the entrepreneurial style of course is you launch early and fail fast so that you can make the adjustments towards that end quickly.

What’s the number one thing anyone can do to differentiate themselves?

James:
I think is about being authentic. It’s about being yourself. And I think it’s very kind of you to allow me onto the show and invite you in to speak and share my story and I think the emphasis it’s listening. It is your story. It’s your life. It’s what you’ve achieved and what you’ve done and it’s always different experiences to make you who you are. The day that you forget that and you’re trying to be someone else you lose your way. To be more you is key. I did a good leadership program a few years ago and one of the things they were talking about was not to go on to change yourself or to improve yourself but just to be more you and to be more confident in you and that is easier said than done. But I think we’ve all got our own story and I think every day we create that as well. Just to embrace that and to play to your strengths, and you will do just fine.

Jürgen:
Great great advice and very articulately put as well. I’ve had quite a few guests say be yourself but I think you’ve encapsulated a lot of things there about having the confidence to share your story because everybody has unique experiences and unique adventures and unique achievements that others can learn from and I think that having the confidence that you’ve actually got something that others are interested in and others can learn from and sharing that, is important.

James:
Yeah definitely. And I think, it’s finding also, if interested, your followers. It’s your tribe, your people that resonate with what you’re doing. There are some people that will be interested in what you’re doing and others that won’t.

Jürgen:
That’s right.

James:
Maybe they’ll be convinced later on and that’s what’s so exciting about culture that we’ve created is just finding this amazing network of people literally, all over world and I know at the moment it’s a scattering. I’ve been approached by people in Kenya and New Zealand and Australia. It’s so awesome to know that we have created something. We still obviously need more people. And we’re growing and it’s just beginning, but it is that feeling of creating something that people want and that belief that we are the focus and by creating meaningful connections make it grow.

Jürgen:
That’s great. It reminds me of something that I’ve got on my list of one line quotes. I heard somebody casually throw this away somewhere and I don’t remember who it was so I’m going to claim it as mine. And it’s basically “you get in front of an audience that cares”, so I use that a lot when for example, the classic conversation I had recently in a podcast around getting to number one on Google for a particular search term, quite often that search term doesn’t actually reach the right audience, the audience that you can help or the audience that has the need that you really have the solution for, so I often used it there.

James:
Definitely. They make a lot of sense

Jürgen:
So what do you see as the future for Causr, for The Beans Group and for yourself as well? I’m sure you’ve probably got heaps of ideas and new things you want to try out.

James:
Sure, in the future, starting with where I started, The Beans Group and Student Beans, it’s so awesome to see what they’re now doing and growing and..

Jürgen:
Are you still hands on in the company are you completely hands off?

James:
No. Again my co-founder, Michael is running that day to day and making some amazing things happen. They just were over in New York, setting up a New York office and so exciting to see what they’re doing and I think that’s just so much more, as you mentioned, we’re in over 20 countries and one of the things that the company has evolved into, is a technology around student verification. So we can now verify in real time a student, as a student and that takes place on the retailer’s website, so as we are growing, they’re just looking to buy more partnerships and opportunities there which is really exciting and we also have Voxburner that does conferences. We’ve got a big event in London in March, be over thousand marketers from around the world that fly in to connect and learn and to understand more about this amazing valuable moving marketplace, generation wise and so on.

So that’s really cool and I’m so so proud of what they’re doing. I’m in the office sometimes hearing cheers of success and they made a good deal and and that’s a really really great buzz and even though I’m not involved at all day to day, it’s a great privilege to know that it’s in safe hands and they’re doing fantastically well.

I shared our vision around creating millions of meaningful connections and there’s so much more that we want to do and I mentioned the Android version coming out this year. On the next round of investment, that’s looking well this year and it’s maybe worth noting that in our previous business, we didn’t get any funding and we still today, didn’t raise any money from anyone outside.

It’s not easy but if you focus on adding value and making a difference, it is possible in that business, there are 30 people full time. What’s possible of course are taking that different journey and getting our initial round of investors and looking for that to continue. It’s a steep learning curve and it’s a challenge but I think if, for us it’s how can we help these existing communities connect and I think that’s our biggest opportunity and we’re speaking to airlines at the moment about helping their passengers connect.

We were speaking to hotel groups about how we could help many people from the same company staying in the hotel at the same time. Anyone listening who is interested wants to help me in the journey please feel free to be in touch.

For me personally, I guess there’s this thread and stream about leaving a legacy and making a difference and adding value. Even if it is around community and the essence of what we are doing and as long as I can get up every morning and know that I’m contributing and making the biggest difference I can and that’s what keeps me going and the reason for living day to day, for a growing business, my first company, because I feel running it and setting it up are two very different things and I really want to create something new that I believe in and I know I’m doing a hundred percent what I was meant to be doing right here and I know you spoke with Michael Gerber a few weeks ago now, around purpose and passion of finding something that this is what you’re here to do, and that’s what I believe in this moment and there are lots of challenges and lots of reasons why it won’t succeed, but there’s a real kind of intent around how we can make a difference if we can do. I look forward to sharing stories with you in the future.

Jürgen
That’s great! I look forward to it keeping touch and seeing how that develops.

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to any business owner then that wants to be a leader in innovation in their field?

James:
Anyone that said as they got like a product roadmap what they know what they’re doing is lying.

What actually you need to do is you’ve got a list of experiments and you just need to work through them as quickly and methodically as possible and try and test and see what lacks. And there’s a list of things that we want to do with Causr, I think it’s going to work. I believe in it and it’s just a case about working through them. So fail fast, keep going and the users in mind. You need to speak to the users.

The other thing, I tend to speak to users, I’m going to disclaimer that. People don’t tell you what they want and so it’s actually about doing experiments and testing and seeing how they use it and share and what they talk about, because that way you get the biggest insight, not going to them and it’s just like the analogy when Ford asked people what car they wanted and the response was a really fast horse.

Jürgen:
Yeah [chuckles]

James:
It’s about educating people and allowing people, giving them choices and then seeing what they do with that. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of market research. I’m still so excited about what I’m doing because there’s just so much interest and opportunity in people and communities and I’m still challenging myself. Feedback from late last weekend when waiting in the airport, I met a couple of pilots and shared with them what I’m doing and they said, ‘Oh it’s brilliant.’

Other passengers inline waiting to get in the airplane and they were just like this is amazing. I used to work at this bank and we were traveling and I would often be in cities by myself. Again people relate to that story and so there’s gotta be something in what I’m doing.

Jürgen:
Exactly. As I said earlier I spent so much of my life standing in queues in airports and hotel lobbies and whatever else and there are hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions doing that every day around the world. So you know it’s got to be something that’s attractive to at least a small part of that group.

James:
And hey they are big part.

Jürgen:
Hopefully a big part. Yeah well some people don’t want to talk to anybody else but that’s their choice.

Thank you James. This has been really great. This is fabulous and I will post links to some of the things I found online about you. If that’s alright to share with people, because I think your journey and some of the video speeches that are there are quite inspirational. I congratulate you on what you’ve done so far and I look forward to seeing more happening.

Where can people reach out and say thank you?

James:
Yeah absolutely. Thank you for having me. I think the key places are LinkedIn and feel free to reach out to me and just, if you mention in the invitation, I heard you on the podcast and something specific to what they liked, also on Twitter as JamesEder.

I look forward to being in touch.

Jürgen:
And presumably we can find you on Causr as well.

James:
The context of what’s interesting about Causr is that I already had meetings with people. People request meetings with me. I’m very open. And generally, I try to meet up.

I ended up not being able to meet someone who is from a specific agency and I saw them on Causr and they were within five hundred meters from me. You can’t see it’s not on a map, you can just see two hundred fifty meters away and then it carries on growing from that and so I just sent a message saying hey look great to see you on the app. I’ve actually had a meeting move half an hour later. I’ve got a half hour. I know you want to meet me and I originally said I couldn’t but at the moment if you want to come and visit me I’m at this place, feel free to come.

And so within twenty minutes we were at a meeting and that meeting otherwise would not have happened had I not been on Causr.

Jürgen:
Another great story!
Who would you like me to interview on a future Innovabuzz podcast and why?

James:
David Taylor, who published The Naked Leader, has been such an amazing part of my journey. He’s very humble and he shares a lot – says it’s not HIS message, it’s A message, “What if I couldn’t fail?” Living by that, and deciding, this is what I’ve got to do, it’s a great mantra and the way that I live. David has been a great part of my journey so far and I think he’d bring great insight to your listeners.

Jürgen:
Excellent. So David, we are coming to get you on to the InnovaBuzz Podcast, courtesy of James Eder.

Thanks so much, James, for sharing your time and insights with us today. Thank you also for reaching out and getting in touch. I’ve really enjoyed this and learned a lot, there is a lot of great advice in this interview for everybody. I wish you all the best for the future of The Beans Group and for Causr as well as the other initiatives you have ongoing and let’s keep in touch.

James:
Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

 

Wrap Up:

Well, James certainly is passionate about what he is doing and about making a difference in the world.  I hope you too, enjoyed this interview, as I did, and learnt much from it.

All the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/jameseder, that is J-A-M-E-S-E-D-E-R, all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/jameseder.   That will have all the show notes as well as details of the challenge that I mentioned at the beginning.  

The challenge – For the next 21 days, every day, you should speak to ONE (at least) complete stranger.  Every day!  But not in a creepy way!  The idea is to connect more people and who knows, what this might lead to – new business, new relationships, new opportunities!  

Go up to someone while waiting in line or in an elevator or at lunch or when you’re at work, go up and just say, ‘Hey I was listening to a podcast and the person on the other end from London said I should just go to speak to one new person a day so would you mind If I speak to you?’  

As James said in the interview,  that will open up doors and opportunities. It’s about just going out there, being brave and just breaking the ice and see where it goes.

Introduce yourself and ask is there something you can help them with today.  

To be eligible for our prize (we’ll work that out later, but it will be Awesome!), you need to post on Facebook and Twitter “spoke to another stranger today” with the #newconnections, and anything else you want to add, then report back in the comments below on your experiences.  For the best experience, we’ll have an awesome prize!  But by connecting with new people, you’ll be winning in any case!

Let’s make this a movement – #newconnections

James suggested I interview David Taylor, who is the author of The Naked Leader, on a future InnovaBuzz podcast.  So, David keep an eye on your inbox, for an invitation from me to the InnovaBuzz podcast, courtesy of James Eder.

I really appreciate you all listening.  Pop over to iTunes or Stitcher or Pocket Casts and subscribe so you’ll never miss a future episode.  While you’re there, you might leave us a review, because reviews help us get found and your feedback helps us improve.  If there is anything you’d like us to cover, or questions you want answered on a future InnovaBuzz podcasts, please send them to us.

Now go make some #newconnections!

Until next time, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz.

Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and keep innovating!

#NewConnections Challenge – with Prize

For the next 21 days, every day, speak to ONE (at least) complete stranger.  Every day!  But not in a creepy way!  The idea is to connect more people and who knows, what this might lead to – new business, new opportunities!  

Go up to a yet (to you) new person and just say, ‘Hey I was listening to a podcast and the person on the other end from London said I should just go to speak to one new person a day so would you mind If I speak to you?’  

Introduce yourself and ask is there something you can help them with today.  

To be eligible for our prize (we’ll work that out later, but it will be Awesome!), you need to post on Facebook and Twitter “spoke to another stranger today” with the #newconnections, and anything else you want to add, then report back in the comments below on your experiences.  For the best experience, we’ll have an awesome prize!  But by connecting with new people, you’ll be winning in any case!

Let’s make this a movement – #newconnections

Listen to the Podcast

Jürgen Strauss

Jürgen is the chief innovator and founder of Innovabiz who partner with innovative business coaches to transform your online presence into a business generation platform that delivers exceptional results. You can find Jürgen on Google+ as well as on Innovabiz' Twitter, Facebook and Google+ Pages.

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