How David Spinks Took His Idea For BlogDash And Jumped For It

by Tim Jahn on October 19, 2010

David Spinks once moved into an apartment in Philadelphia without seeing it or meeting any of his roommates.  In David’s words, he just “jumped for it”.

Now David is jumping again, this time starting his own company called BlogDash.  Watch my interview with David to learn how he came up with the idea, partnered up with his boss to execute it, and came to the point where he’s investing his savings into it!

Transcript

David Spinks:
I’m David Spinks. I am the community and project manager for Scribnia and the cofounder of a new tool called BlogDash. BlogDash is a tool that we are building to help bloggers, I mean, to help business reach bloggers that they’re looking for, for their campaigns.

Tim Jahn:
When you came up with the idea for BlogDash, what did you do in terms of execution? Like how did you approach taking that idea more seriously and actually making it a reality?

David Spinks:
So we’ve been looking at a lot of different ways to monetize Scribnia. We wanted to make sure that we do it in a way that is fair to users and doesn’t take away from the experience of the site. So we approached advertising and that wasn’t really working out. And we looked at a lot of like traditional ways to monetize online sites.

But quickly realized that unless you’re really able to scale those things really, it’s not a great way to run a business online. So the most doable resource that we’ve always had is their information. We have a great way of finding bloggers, and filtering through them.

So when we started thinking about ways to monetize Scribnia, we started thinking about ways that we could present that information in a way that would be valuable. Putting that together with the needs of PR professionals, doing blogger outreach, it just made sense. So started working up a concept for the idea.

We had a team of developers that we work with and designers; so we just threw together some basic mockups. I drew up a basic business plan for BlogDash and ran it over to my boss. You know, my boss and I more have sort of like a partnership relationship anyway. Its not really — we definitely work side by side on a lot of things. And so I pretty much just presented him with the idea and the plan and made sense, and so we started building it.

Tim Jahn:
How long — I find a lot of people when they finally execute on the idea, they’ve had the idea in their head for a long time and it’s usually an idea that won’t go away where they finally have to sit down and address it for real. Was this one of those ideas? Did you have it for a long time?

David Spinks:
Not like this specific idea. I think I was toying around with the concept of doing some sort of tool to connect bloggers with businesses for a while, definitely for a lot of the time I’ve been working with Scribnia because it just seemed like a natural progression for it. Until, I think it just kind of clicked one day. We just came up with the concept of why don’t we just build this media tool especially for bloggers? It doesn’t exist.

And as someone who I do blogger outreach myself pretty regularly and I interact with people like you, and other folks involved in PR, social media who do it regularly. And I understand what they need, and I understand that there’s no tool out there. And so it was kind of one of those things that I had the vague idea that there’s a need there. And then once I figured out that’s the tool that we should create, we jumped for it.

Tim Jahn:
I like that, we jumped for it.

David Spinks:
I guess that’s what I do. I just jump for it. You know, Philly I just — when I moved to Philly I didn’t have an apartment or anything. I just went on Craigslist, I had them — I found a place that had an extra room and I had them fax me the application. I didn’t even see it, and I signed it, sent it back. Two weeks after I graduated I just moved out there and that was that.

Tim Jahn:
You moved to an apartment without ever seeing it?

David Spinks:
Yeah. I mean, it was like a three month sublet kind of thing with three like random other people. But it was close to the office.

Tim Jahn:
Had you ever met the other people living there?

David Spinks:
No, no I didn’t. They were cool though. They were a little — well, actually it was weird. One of the other guys who ended up living there was also in the Dream It program. So coincidentally, I ended up living with someone else that was in that whole thing with me.

Tim Jahn:
So it actually worked out then?

David Spinks:
Yeah, it all worked out fine in the end. I mean, that was a big leap for me. I was pretty scared shitless at that time. I — just leaving school. It wasn’t really, it wasn’t a real job. I was going to go join this startup and they’ll pay me enough to pay rent and that’s pretty much it.

And I didn’t have any money saved up or anything. But I knew it would be an amazing experience and something that I would have regretted passing up. So I did it and a now a year later, things have progressed quite a bit.

Tim Jahn:
So you’re investing into it. I find that really interesting. Because that is — you really have to believe in what you’re doing more than ever when you’re sinking your own money. And I don’t want to use the term, “sinking”.

When you’re investing your own money into it. What’s that like? I mean, what does that feel like to think that there’s a big financial part of you involved in this now? I mean, this isn’t only necessarily someone else’s money you’re using, it’s your money.

David Spinks:
Exactly. And I mean, that’s going to be a big shift for me because to this point I have really just been an employee. As much as I’ve been running a lot of things that we’ve been doing, I’ve really just been an employee for the company.

So now that I’m actually going to be a partner, not just in title, but in a, actually I have money in it, I mean, that’s something that I’m sure every entrepreneur will face where they have to risk their own resources.

But it becomes an easy decision when you really do believe in what you have. I think the opportunity is huge. I think the tool that we’re building is going to be really useful. Obviously I don’t have as much money as my boss. There are a lot of other people that invest in these companies. But, I want to be able to contribute as much as I can to the company because its — this is pretty much my baby right now. It’s my original idea, this is my company and I want to make sure that we do well. So —

Tim Jahn:
You mentioned earlier that it was an easy decision to invest your own money into your idea. Was it easy at first? I just think that even the most passionate person would still hesitate for a moment in investing any amount of their own money. Maybe not — was it easy to begin with or did it become easier to make that decision?

David Spinks:
I mean, I guess its never easy writing that check. It’s never easy handing over the money. But I’m very, I’ve been very passionate about the whole start up scene and wanting to start up my own thing. And I’ve had a lot of ideas that I’ve wanted to roll with but just really haven’t had the resources or time to do.

So like I’ve actually been saving up for a while now with the intention of investing it into a company that I can start and build. So it wasn’t something that like I hadn’t thought about a lot in the past.

I knew once I had an idea that I felt confident would succeed and do well that I would — that’s why I’m saving up this money. When it comes out to actually handing it over, it’s never easy. Money is money and times are always tough, and you got to make sure that you can take care of yourself. I just signed a lease for an apartment in Manhattan so my living costs are going to skyrocket.

But in the long run, I’m still young, I can take some risks and I’m very passionate about what we’re doing and I think we’re going to make it work.

Tim Jahn:
What’s your one piece of advice for someone in a similar situation? They have an idea, maybe they’re working at a company. Whether they want to involve their boss or not. But what’s you’re one piece of advice for executing and making that idea a reality?

David Spinks:
You know, just make sure that it something that you really believe in. There’s no way we can make this work if it’s not something that I’m willing to spend countless hours, and really put everything into it.

And if you’re in a situation where you want to do something — I mean, you have to decide, is it something that you want to run with, run by your boss and have it kind of be a thing that you’re doing with your current job? Maybe at some point you need to take a leave, maybe you need to quit your job and pursue your own idea. You need to look at what you want to do, who you want to do it with.

And if it’s a fit for your boss — like I guess if you’re thinking about whether or not you should do it with your boss or with the people you’re working with now just approach it like you would from scratch like if it was just you and you had this idea, and you were looking for someone to work with on it. Would your boss or whoever you’re working with be those people that you would work with on it? And if they are, then shoot the idea at them.

The worst that can happen is they say, no and they you’re back on your own. You don’t have the resources that you might have had before but you can always make it work. If you think it will work, just shoot the idea at them. If it’s a good idea, and they know what they’re doing, they’ll run with it too.

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