Paul is a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded five companies, including Raindance Communications, which went public in 2000 and was acquired by West in 2006. He has been a TechStars mentor since 2007.
I started my fifth company in 2007. My first three companies were successful and the fourth company I started was off to a great start. So, I did what every serial entrepreneur does—I started a new one. I came up with the idea of a thing I called the "Zenie Bottle"—a beautiful, collectible physical object (similar to a Lava Lamp) linked to a social web site mash-up. I pulled the plug on the project a year later. Here is where I went wrong.
I built the business for my ego, not the market. The idea I started with was very simple: sell a novelty item that was fun to collect. The Zenie Bottle was a pretty glass bottle filled with a colorful substance that, when shaken, looked like a genie was living inside. But I didn't feel like selling a novelty item was a big enough idea, so I added elements to the business to make it more complex and hip. I attached a social web site mash-up in which the owner of a Zenie Bottle would have a virtual bottle on the Web where they could put pictures, music, and video into it so they could share it with their friends. I also created an elaborate story in the form of a serious web video of the ...