Maveriq Profile: Peter Stougaard, PopBoardz Inc.
Last week I had a great opportunity to speak with Peter Stougaard. Peter is a highly experienced creative executive who's worked for companies like 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks. After many years of developing successful campaigns as well as highly distributed assets in the entertainment space, Peter came across a problem that he felt the need to solve.
That problem was the limiting nature of currently available presentation solutions. Platforms like PowerPoint and Keynote were just not enough. For this reason Peter developed PopBoardz. Popboardz is an incredibly nimble presentation and conversation solution that allows for flexible delivery of information in any discussion. It's well suited for communicating ideas across any industry. During our talk Peter shared a great deal about his entrepreneurial journey. Here's what he had to say:
When did you decide to become an entrepreneur and start your own company? How did you arrive at that decision?
It was at the beginning of 2011. I had been the Senior Vice President of Creative Advertising at 20th Century Fox for 11 years and I was at Dreamworks the first five years of that. At the end of my Fox period, I really wanted to play in the digital space. I had done the corporate thing for a long time, and didn’t want to do that anymore. It’s five and a half years later and I'm still not looking for a job.
What were you doing before you became your own boss?
At 20th Century Fox being the Senior Vice President of Creative Advertising I worked on all the feature films, everything from Moulin Rouge up to Avatar. I dealt with talent; studio executives, directors, and all the rest. My main focus was mostly the print advertising, but I did get to participate on everything.
What lessons from your previous position have you learned that help you to run PopBoardz?
The idea for PopBoardz actually came out of my first one-on-one meeting with Jeffrey Katzenberg when I was at DreamWorks. I called his office and talked to his assistant. She said, "You him next Thursday from 4:17pm to 4:30pm." I sort of giggled like, “Really? Seriously 13 minutes?” She said “Yep, that’s absolutely correct.” So I spent a week planning out my entire presentation; beginning, middle, and end as well as the question and answer period like most of us would. When it came time for the meeting, Jeffrey walked in and I realized 30 seconds into that conversation that this wasn't my meeting with Jeffrey... this was Jeffrey's meeting with me. He was going to ask me whatever he wanted to ask, whenever he wanted to ask it. So of course I fumbled around to find all the examples. I had the answers, but the more time you spend fumbling, the more anxious you get and the more impatient they get. That was the inspiration for PopBoardz. An idea that came out of necessity. I made it for myself.
That’s a great dovetail into our next question. What is the business problem that you were trying to solve when you developed the PopBoardz product?
PopBoardz is an instant-access presentation tool. Every other presentation tool out there is a strictly-linear, slide-based, solution for getting your ideas across. I've never been in a linear meeting in my life. Someone always raises their hand and has a question, and you don't want to say “We're going to get to that,” or “I don't have that,” or worse “I think I have it.” All you want to say is “I have that right here.” So that's our differentiator, and we’ve really had a lot of luck with sales teams and sales people because they're always put in that situation.
Excellent. What are you currently guiding your passion and energy toward with regard to the company?
I'm grabbing things in a grassroots sort of way. Working with clients one-on-one. I'll help them create a great presentation and then I’ll show them how they can easily create them on their own.
There's a quote from Brian Chesky of Airbnb that I just love,
“Make 100 people love your product. It’s better to have 100 people love you than find a million people who sort of just like you. Build your business one person at a time, just focus on 100 people. If they love you they will market the product for you and tell everyone else. Go to your users, do one scalable thing, one person at a time. It’s actually so simple... that's the secret. That’s all you need to do.”
“Every entrepreneur is worried about appeasing investors. Every investor wants the graph to go up to the right. Who gives a sh*t! That's not what's going to make your company successful. Your customers don't care how fast your company's growing. Your customers only care how great the experience you have is.”
So that's sort of been my personal mantra recently, and I’ve had lots of luck with people in all different walks of life following those principles. The moment I can help them look great to their clients or to their bosses, is when PopBoardz shines through. So that’s what has been guiding me lately, as well as raising cash and all that other fun stuff that entrepreneurs get to do.
What has been the biggest challenge in running a product company and how have you overcome this obstacle?
We’re a tiny company, and we work with lots of freelance people. Their availability is sometimes challenging when you are just trying to keep the ball moving forward.
Fortunately, my partner really believes in what we're doing, he’s built and sold many companies. At times I get too close to the day to day details and don't always have the perfect perspective. That’s when he says, “Don't worry about it Peter. You’re doing the right thing.” He is always reassuring me that we have a great product and that’s all that matters.
Where do you turn when you are seeking inspiration in your entrepreneurial endeavors?
It just depends on what corner we’re turning, and what I need to get accomplished. It may be financial and business plan stuff, or creative, or technical. Sometimes it’s just things that keep me motivated. I actually play music and my office is in my recording studio. I play music every week with the same guys, and it’s great when you're playing... because you can't think about anything else. It clears the cobwebs out and gives me a fresh start. My wife always likes it when I play music with the guys because I'm a 'much happier guy to be around'. If you don’t take a timeout, the “chase” can overwhelm you and I always say, “If you only keep your nose to the grindstone, you’ll end up with no nose.”
Make 100 people love your product. It's better to have 100 people who love you than find a million people who sort of just like you."
Where do you see the future of the company? What are your coming goals?
We’ve been around for a few years and it’s been a very serious “hobby” for me. When my partner came in we were just an iPad app, but he saw the greater potential. Now we’re on iPad, iPhone, desktop and a web infrastructure as well. Apple featured us a couple times in the banner in the App Store, we have lots of downloads, and some very loyal fans.
All that said, we really feel our sweetspot is, helping people sell/pich things. Be they ideas, products, real estate, you name it! Everybody is always selling something and that’s what PopBoardz is for. Think of it as your “wingman” during any conversation. When a presentation becomes a discussion, that’s when PopBoardz shines! We get to the perfect example the moment that you need it.
At some point, I have dreams of a large conglomerate deciding that PopBoardz needs to be a part of what they’re doing, but in the meantime I love what we are building and could do this for many years. PopBoardz is an app that traffics in ideas and concepts, and that’s what I’ve done my entire career so it’s really fun and something I know very well .
Thanks for the insight. How do you maintain a balance be tween company growth while still focusing on product innovation?
“Feature” is a creep lurking around every corner. Everybody has an idea for your app. “It’d be great if it did this!” I hear it everyday. But I take a page out of “Steve Jobs’ book” - “No” is a very powerful word. I'm happy to listen to people’s ideas, but I have to make sure that anything we do with innovation or features is something that can benefit everyone. PopBoardz is simple, and easy to use. However, every programmer that's ever touched it, says that it’s “deceptively complex”. Development is hard. Simple is not easy to accomplish.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as an entrepreneur, and how can our audience prepare themselves to not make a similar mistake?
It stems from that last answer. Saying yes to too many things, and not staying focused on what you believe is your core. Again as Brian Chesky from Airbnb said “Focus on making a handful of people love your product rather than trying to make the world merely like your product.”
When you work one-on-one with your customers, you actually learn a lot about your product from them. You assume you know “the answers” because you’ve created it, but once you’ve put it in somebody else's hands... your education begins. If you can keep quiet, and let them experience it, they will unknowingly tell you the truth, it's pretty unbelievable!
We're very excited to see where our friend Peter takes PopBoardz. The company has amazing potential and an excellent leader. What do you think? Let us know if you have any thoughts or questions in the comments section below.