Robert Kiraz,CEO & Founder of Leanometry recently launched PitchGrub, a site dedicated to developing the perfect startup elevator pitch. On the PitchGrub team, Robert is joined by Simona Clapan and Shant Kiraz. Erik Huberman, CEO of Hawke Media, talks to Robert about how he became an entrepreneur, the Silicon Beach scene and PitchGrub.
Erik Huberman: How did you become an entrepreneur?
Robert Kiraz: I graduated USC in 2008 with a film degree and thought, “What the hell am I going to do with this?” I’ve always been interested, and excited by, innovation and the creativity behind it. It was a super exciting time in 2008, the web was really coming into its own. I thought, “I’d love to be involved in this space. I would love to help it move forward.” The idea for a video streaming startup called Vokle came. I told a friend about it and he joined as my co-founder. We raised seed capital, and a couple rounds of capital after that, and before you know it, it was 2013 and the company was acquired. Went through that entire experience of operating a startup and I love it more now than I ever have.
E: Tell me about PitchGrub.
R: PitchGrub was a pleasantly unexpected event. This past summer, there were four of us working on a startup side project called ShareWalla, which helps content creators get more shares on their content by requesting fan share a Tweet to get access to their content. Three of the four of us spun off and spent Labor Day Weekend thinking about elevator pitches for ShareWalla, how to best convey the concept. We were grabbing lunch and talking about it, browsing articles online about how to craft the perfect elevator pitch. We realized crafting a good elevator pitch is really tough, and while there’s no perfect structure to it, there is some common elements we noticed through all the research we did. We thought, it’s not just tough for us, it’s tough for all entrepreneurs. We decided to pull all the knowledge we were learning, take all that research and productize it. We were getting some grub, we were talking about pitches, so we thought “alright, let’s call it PitchGrub.”So PitchGrub was born.
E: How is PitchGrub changing the world?
R: PitchGrub helps spreads knowledge. It really is an educational microapp. We didn’t launch with the goal of exiting or with monetization in mind. It was all about putting something cool out there in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’re helping people better convey their concepts, which helps the community as a whole. There could be a lot of really promising entrepreneurs and promising ideas out there that really don’t get much of a shot at attracting a team, or raising funding because they’re stumbling on an elevator pitch, which is a really tragic place to stumble. So we figured, why not make it easier for entrepreneurs to ideate or concept out their pitch. Really, everything starts with that; that’s your idea. To set things in motion, you have to get that part down first and make it compelling and exciting so people join forces with you and help you bring your startup to life. Communicating a good idea is critical in the startup space for any entrepreneur.
E: What made you choose Santa Monica?
R: I’m an LA native, so I feel connected to it.With Vokle, it was 2008 when we incorporated, so we were deciding where to be located in Los Angeles. I’m very excited to be at the ground floor of this movement that is happening in Santa Monica. Back in 2008, everyone was so spread out. There were a few startups in SoCal, but there was no real hub. We happened to pick Santa Monica because we liked to be near the beach, and maybe everyone did the same thing because before you knew it, Santa Monica really became the startup hub here in SoCal. Which is great, you couldn’t ask for a better place.
E: Do you have one piece of advice for an entrepreneur starting their own business?
R: Do your homework. Entrepreneurs are very practical people, very solution focused, and they want to just go out there and build their solution. Over the last couple years, we’ve seen a lot of startups become more in tune with research. Conducting surveys and seeing if there’s potential in their idea and specific solution. Research allows startups to start at a really good place. They can launch with a product that’s been thoroughly vetted by themselves and potential customers. You don’t want to launch a passionate idea without research to find out 6-9 months later that you built the wrong product, and with a lot of pain and suffering and potentially capital spent. After all that research is done, make sure you’re still passionate about the product. Put it through the gauntlet, and after that see if it’s still a good product and if you’re passionate about it. If it passes both of those tests, go for it.
E: What’s something you’d like to share with Santa Monica?
R: If you’re passionate about something, and passionate about changing the world – just do it. Entrepreneurship is not rocket science, it’s just a lot of hard work, and passion. To any entrepreneur in Santa Monica, or really anywhere, if you’re passionate about something, put in the effort and I think you’ll be a success.