by Tim Jahn on August 31, 2010
Have you ever had one of those ideas that just won’t go away? One of those that gets ya real excited all the time?
That’s how PitchEngine was for founder Jason Kintzler. The idea consumed Jason so much, he went to an agency and asked how much it would cost to build his idea. Unfortunately, the down payment for the project was a bit more than Jason could swing at the time.
How did Vegas, some serendipity, and $3,600 allow Jason to bring his idea to life?
The quick pitch is, PitchEngine was designed to help people get the word out. In the very beginning, it was much sort of, much more archaic and it was to help solve that media relations sort of process; the problems that were associated with that. Which was just — everything was done by email and journalists would get content via email and if they needed a high res image, it was a pain in the neck.
So we created a platform where they could go and put all their content up. Digital press release you could call it. There’s a million names for it. Everybody has their own sort of conceptual idea of what it is. But that’s really what it was, it was a place to go and put content up for people to go get.
And there’s a lot of services and technologies kind of like that but nothing was really made for media and for storytelling and all those things. So that’s really how it started. But now, PitchEngine has involved to really a place where you go to get the word out.
Yeah, you said that you saw a need and you filled the need. And I find that a lot of creative entrepreneurs do the same thing. But my question is, how do you know when you have a need that’s worth filling? Like how do you know that moment where you’re like I should stop what I’m doing and execute on this idea and fill this need? Or do you know?
Wow. I mean, we have those discussions. My partner here, our Chief Operating Officer, Fabian Lobera, we talk about this a lot. In just that where do those ideas come from and where do you get, when do you take them to the next level? I think part of it, I come from a family of entrepreneurs. They, its really, they were on the other end of a shovel; that’s working.
My dad, it’s not a job unless there’s a shovel in your hand or some beads of sweat for sure. But, I did come from a family where I heard people talking, I heard, I grew up with my family talking about ideas of things they wanted to do and I’ve seen my dad execute it, start a business and my mom, and everybody started their own businesses and have done things.
So I think a little bit of it is just having that confidence that you can do it or that it can be done. And knowing that if you fail at it, you’re still okay. And I think what happened to me is number one, I’ve always had these ideas to start little things. Forever, I wanted to start this fly-fishing magazine; that was my dream. So yeah, I mean, that was the deal. So through college and after college, I was a writer and I loved it. But I was passionate about fly-fishing and that’s what I wanted to do. So I thought, “I’m going to start a magazine.”
And I did all the research. I went to a statewide magazine called the “Big Sky Journal” in Montana. And I researched it, did everything. At the end of the day, I realized, “I’m not going to make any money. Why am I going into print? Everybody else is going away from print.” And so I decided not to it.
Later I learned, man, I could do this as a blog and it probably have been pretty cool. But that aside, I always had ideas, I always had things that sort of were in the back of my mind. And this was one of those that I knew, I knew it was important, I knew that people needed it.
So what I did Tim, is I started out on Ning. I found Ning and I thought, “This is kind of a cool platform for creating a blog and getting people to talk about what I’m doing.” So, I started blogging. And this was probably in 2007, about April, May of 2007, in the spring sometime. And I just blogged about the problems we faced and how social media and PR can kind of converge and how they can use each other. And so, how media can leverage it and how PR people can leverage it. And I got a lot of buy in.
So I started blogging a lot more and I got — almost built up my confidence if you will. I knew people had this same problem. And so probably only about two months into it, I started to syndicate my blog a little bit, got on Social Media Today and some of these other places and people were republishing my blogs. But what happened is because Ning was a network where people would subscribe for your network and sort of be members.
I got to track them and interact with them a little bit more than say on a regular blog post or regular blog platform. And what happened was all the thought leaders were there. It was so cool. I remember the first day that Brian Solis joined. I remember the first — and he’s a heavyweight sort of PR pro, he’s a thought leader in the PR industry. Peter Shankman’s another one I remember when he joined.
I remember seeing these people come in and checking out and researching them and I’m like, “wow, this is cool.” And what happened was they sort of evangelized it for me. And so about four months in, I launched PitchEngine. I finally got up the, number one, the money and the nerve all those things.
The risk, I rolled the dice. But what happened, was I had this sort of built in community of beta testers and who better than a PR person to evangelize a PR software. So when I launched it, it just — they ran with it.
Well, speaking of obstacles, you mentioned about money a little bit. And how did you fund PitchEngine? Did you seek funding for PitchEngine or did you bootstrap it or how did you go about? I mean, executing anything requires money of some sort. So how did you actually execute and get the money?
Yeah, I — that’s a great question. If I’ve learned anything through this process, I wasn’t a guy that was a start up guy. I didn’t even really understand what a startup meant. And so I went into this like a business and I said, “If I’m going to create a business, I’ve got to have some revenue coming in, I’ve got to have some cash flow. And can I get there? How am I going to get there? What are the steps I need to take to get there?” And I didn’t look at it as, somebody’s going to give me money and we’re going to build a business.
And so what I did is I went out and I went to an agency and I said, “Here’s what I want to build.” And they gave me a bid back and I was like, “wow, this is really a lot of money.” And it really wasn’t at the time but it seemed like a lot. And I had to come up with 50% down to start the process.
So I just saved a little bit. And I was on a — it wasn’t low income salary, but I was a young guy right out of — I was coming off my news career, my high paying news job into the PR industry. And so, I saved enough to get up to that level.
And I’ll tell you a funny story, my wife, I was getting, I was engaged and getting married to my wife at the time. And I had all these ideas and this was one that was just — when you get one of these ideas, it just sort of percolates and you think about it all the time and you don’t sleep and all this stuff. She kept saying, “When it’s meant to be, it will happen. When it’s meant to be, it will happen.”
So a little while goes by, a few months actually. I’m at a trade show in Las Vegas waiting for my wife to come down actually and her friends because they — a couple of the coworkers that I had there, they’re their spouses.
So they were coming down. So we’re staying at the Hilton and I decide I’m going to play Deal or No Deal on the penny slot machines. And I’m playing around and I hit the jackpot, it’s like $3,600.00. Well, it was enough to give me that little bit that I needed for that 50% down. So I actually called the agency from Las Vegas and said, “Start, I’m ready to go.” And then I told my wife, she came and I said, “Remember when you said it was meant to be?”
And I pulled out this wad of cash because they give you cash when you win on the slot machine. I’m not a gambler by any means. But it worked. And so she was happy. And that’s what started this whole process.
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