Does the world need another social network? Doug Brown and David Greschler — the brains behind a new Kirkland startup called PaperShare — certainly think so. But PaperShare isn’t another Twitter or Facebook or MySpace.
The six-person startup is exclusively focused on helping people exchange business and technical information, organizing one’s working life. So, in the words of Greschler, you won’t find any “dancing babies or self-centered observations” on PaperShare.
“PaperShare is here to bring business to social by matching high-quality professional content with people and companies in the same industries so they can make the best decisions for their business,” he said.
PaperShare is free at this point, but the Kirkland company (which has signed up 20 charter customers) is planning to roll out premium versions which cost $10 per month or $100 per year.
We chatted with Greschler, the former president at Softricity, for the latest installment of Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “PaperShare is a ‘social content network’ that connects you to all the content, people and companies in a specific industry. It allows you to easily find deep technical and business information and then connect with like-minded people interested in the same content. It’s a social network for your working life.”
Inspiration hit us when: “(Co-founder Doug Brown) realized the millions of users to his Dabcc.com virtualization industry web site were pulling down tons of content but couldn’t connect with each other. He saw that they were all attending industry events so they could learn and network, so he realized they’d also love to see what others in the community were reading and what they thought of the content. He started building a new platform for his site but pretty soon realized this could be used for any vertical industry where people want to share content and connect with each other, the companies, thought leaders, analysts and other members of the same industry.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrapped (mostly funded by revenues) so we could prove out the idea. Now that we’ve done that, it’s time to scale – so we’re starting to talk to our friends in the investment community.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “PaperShare’s secret sauce is that we flipped the social paradigm on its head by putting the content first vs. the person. Nobody has done this. Other social networks lead with people, thus introducing tons of noise that consists of content, messages, pictures and videos on a whole range of topics that may not be relevant to the receiver. By leading with content first, it allows users to find the resources they are looking for, and at the same time connect with like-minded professionals and companies interested in the content.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Getting our beta out in July when it just had core functionality. At first, we made everyone apply to be a beta tester but quickly realized so many people wanted to try it we should just let everyone in. This helped us immensely to get feedback and accelerate selling the service to our customers.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Painting the wall in our office light blue – and then having to repaint it with a darker shade of blue (see picture of us re-painting the wall above)…. That and thinking things will get done sooner than they actually get done. By nature, entrepreneurs are impatient people – we want to see our ideas happen overnight. Patience and persistence are the two opposites that have to be merged to be successful with a new business.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Gates because he was smart enough to buy the last company I founded, Softricity, in 2006. But we’d also like to have Bezos since he’s got a great handle on what content is all about and how it can build community.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “PaperShare is all about using content to encourage resource sharing, collaboration and community, and can be applied to any industry. This is by design. Today PaperShare is focused around topics on cloud computing and virtualization but one day there will be a PaperShare community for every imaginable vertical market, including industries within healthcare, finance and manufacturing.”
Rivals should fear us because: “PaperShare is about to disrupt their market. We break down the walls between individuals and resources, allowing users and companies to go directly to the people looking for content. And we have a mean-spirited, virtual goat called Matt. Watch out, he bites!”
We are truly unique because: “When people talk about social content, they’re usually talking about consumer content like videos of cute cats and photos of kids’ birthday parties. PaperShare is here to turn business and technical content social – and, in doing so, use it as a way to connect like-minded people within industries.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Bridging traditional marketing with the new social approach. We offer solutions for both but have to spend time explaining our approach to both the traditional marketing person and the social media manager.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Doug’s favorite quote is by the great golfer Ben Hogan, “Every day that I missed practicing takes me one day longer to be good. I like this and think that practice in this case is calling on potential and existing customers. Ideas come from you, but once you’ve got the idea, test it with potential customers as soon as possible, even if it’s just a scribble on a napkin. I think the reason PaperShare is so original, but also so useful, is that Doug quickly went from coming up with the idea to getting feedback from potential users and customers. People make a good idea great.”