It’s been awhile since our last installment of Crazy People That Just Might Inspire You, but if there’s one thing you can count on in life it’s that there are always more crazy people out there. We think you’ll agree that today’s Crazy Person, Kevin Friedman, is crazy in ways that sound pretty fun.
We originally met Kevin through some mutual friends in San Francisco awhile back. He’s got an MBA from one of the best business schools and some might even say a somewhat conservative early career in banking, but somewhere along the way he chose a more unconventional path. When we met him he had already left the corporate world behind and was engaged in at least a few unconventional and interesting businesses (more to come on these); now, somehow he’s heading up a business in Buenos Aires and other parts of LATAM called OfertaSimple while still living in San Francisco – obviously we had to find out more. Let’s do this.
Kevin Friedman, the interview
Kevin, before we get started, tell us where in the world you are answering these questions?
At the back table in Jovino on Union Street in San Francisco.
When people ask you what you do for a living, how do you respond?
I usually lie through my teeth and make up the job du jour. I guess I’m a little bit sensitive that I fill ATMs with twenties for a living.
Fair enough. Other than filling ATMS, what are your primary motivations/inspirations in life?
I had a list of 30+ inspirational people from a few years ago… except Tiger Woods was on the top of that list. So I’ve learned to admire specific characteristics of some notable people, but I look to my parents, my fiancée and a few close friends for real inspiration.
Before we get into your current project at OfertaSimple, tell us a little more about your background…
We understand that you are “The man behind the man” at MisterArcher.com… What does this mean? What is MisterArcher and what do you do there?
Mister Archer is my nom de plume for a bon vivant gallivanting around San Francisco exposing the unique and under-appreciated. The motto is “Inspirations for your Explorations” and we share the ideas that are worthy through a members-only newsletter (sign up at MisterArcher.com).
That is a lot of fancy words in a row! How/why did you get involved with MisterArcher?
I started Mister Archer to fight off my inner-couch potato.
We also understand that you started TValacarte.org in a campaign to take down Comcast… what’s that all about?
Does anyone believe that paying $150/month to watch a dozen or so channels is a good deal? My frustration boiled over about a year and a half ago when I realized that Comcast’s strangehold on cable choked off the competition. I believe if we can aggregate our demand and coordinate a movement away from Big Cable, we will ultimately be rewarded with cost-effective, high-quality programming. Of course, if you prefer channel surfing through 300 channels in order to develop the strongest thumb muscles on the block, then you’re probably better off with the status quo.
Nice Time write-up about it by the way, how did you manage to get them to pick it up?
The Time write-up happened organically. The author, Brad Tuttle, saw one of my comments on another related story about the cable industry, then he followed up directly with me.
Ok, let’s hear about this OfertaSimple thing…
Give us the pitch, what are you doing down in South America?
I’m running away from the United States economy (half-kidding). America is flat-lining… while much needed reforms (patent, immigration, tax) are stuck in a rubber room due to partisanship. On the other hand, emerging markets are implementing thoughtful policies and programs improving their GDP. I thought it would be a great opportunity to try and launch an international business.
What is OfertaSimple?
OfertaSimple.com.ar is an online service that connects consumers with local businesses. The OfertaSimple business is based on the “collective buying power” concept that has now proved successful throughout the world. Every day, OfertaSimple features an exclusive deal with one local business in each city where we operate. Local businesses benefit from customer acquisition without having to pay an upfront cost. Consumers love the huge discounts and the sensation of discovering local businesses.
Who should be interested in this site?
Some would think that our core customer is the bargain shopper. In fact, our most loyal customers are working professionals short on time, but excited to experience new spots in the City. Time is their most important resource. In the time it takes to cream and sugar their morning coffee, we provide them with a recommendation of a new spot to check out. And we require that the business provide a 40% – 90% off discount as a reward for our customers for trying out something new.
Can you give us some examples of recent deals?
Sure. We’ve offered a great range of deals like over 60% off sushi libre at Aires de Geisha in Palermo Soho to 75% off a parapente flight. Although we are getting some cool spots approaching us to run deals for them, we’re still finding the best deals through our sales team and member recommendations.
How’s business going?
Overall, the business is going swimmingly. We’ve been fortunate to have hired some tremendous employees for roles ranging from sales to marketing and customer service. Our country manager, Eugenia, is the glue to the team. She rocks!
There are a few other competitors who have also recently entered the marketplace, including Groupon. But I believe there will still be room for them since someone who buys a deal on our site, might also find a few other deals attractive on their site. Ultimately, these purchases are not mutually exclusive.
How did you get involved?
I got involved with OfertaSimple by buying the website domain. The rest of the founding team has been living in LatAm for the past 7 years. We drew straws to determine our responsibilities and I ended up with the CTO short-straw.
Anything else we should know about OfertaSimple?
We are looking to build an OfertaSimple mobile app for Blackberries and iPhone. Interested app developers, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to you for a minute…
Were you always off doing crazy things? When was the last time you had what most people would consider to be a ‘real’ job?
It’s been a while. I’ve actually been trying to get a part-time job as a sports consultant. For example, I’d love to share some zany brainstorms with the SF Giants… like bottom of the 9th, Giants are tied with one out and a runner on third base. The other team hits a deep fly ball… definitely deep enough for the runner to tag. Typically, the left fielder catches the ball then throws home late while the winning run scores. Instead, the left fielder should intentionally bobble the ball, as if they are a volleyball setter while moving towards home plate. They wouldn’t control the ball until they were within range to throw the runner out at home. It might be tough to execute, but even if there’s a 1% chance of success better than 100% certainty of losing. These ideas are not available to the L.A. Trolley Dodgers.
What was your last ‘real’ job and why did you leave it?
My last real job was working in Corporate Strategy for Roost.com. I enjoyed working there and we had a strong executive team, but I decided to leave right after we raised an $8mm series B round. My passion was to launch our rentals product, but with the real estate market upside-down, we decided to focus on the core search technology.
Would you ever go back to that kind of work environment?
Certainly. Although I’ve opted for the pirate’s life, I do miss the security of a steady salary. But what I miss most is the office cooler conversations. I haven’t heard a good joke in months because it simply isn’t the same chatting with the team through a skype window or on IM.
I can definitely relate to that! Maybe we should create an online virtual water cooler… Sorry, back to the interview: Was it scary when you first started off on your own? Anything you would do differently in retrospect?
Not only was it scary… it still is scary. I still have doubts enter my mind during some weak moments in the wee hours of the morning. A little stress might help to motivate, but a lot of stress is counter-productive. But I’ve been lucky to have a strong support network with my founding team, my close friends and my fiancée. (Yup, I know how to type accents over vowels.) I am also heartened by the inspirational Marianne Williamson quote about “playing small does not serve the world.” Touché.
I am impressed by your vowel accenting – a key skill for the success any international business. Any advice for people who are reading this from a cubicle at a job they don’t love wishing they could get out there and pursue their passions?
I don’t think I’ve earned the right to share unsolicited advice to others yet. But, I will share a quote from Charles Swindoll that stays top of mind.
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
Thanks Kevin, good luck with OfertaSimple.com.ar!
THANK YOU, Ryan and Jen! It’s been a pleasure to meet you both and I sincerely hope your journey inspires others to explore the world and pursue their ventures.
This is craziness at it’s best. I always have tremendous respect for anyone who risks failure to pursue their passions and Kevin is a great example of someone who is doing just that. On more of a side note, I also think the idea of starting a business that focuses on international markets without necessarily having to relocate yourself is pretty novel. I continue to be surprised by just how many different possibilities there are out there… rather than the 3-5 life/career options that most people think they have (e.g., stick with current job, look for other job in same industry, go get an advanced degree, etc.), in reality there are an infinite number of options – often they require risk, but if you know you aren’t ever going to be truly happy doing what you’re doing today and there is some possibility that you will be if you take the leap, the odds seem pretty good. I heard a story recently of a guy that left his 10+ year successful business career to become a professional golf caddy… it’s been a few years now and he absolutely LOVES it. Pretty cool if you ask me.
Thanks again for the inspiration Kevin. If anyone out there knows other crazy people we should be talking to, please let us know!