Tony Conrad

Founder of about.me & Sphere. Partner at True Ventures

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON October 23, 2015

Discussion

Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
Hi all, Tony here. I'm the founder of about.me, the easiest way to build a profile page that showcases your unique identity, and develop connections with others. In addition to founding about.me and blog search engine Sphere (acquired by Aol), I'm a member of the True Ventures founding team, leading investments in WordPress.com, Blue Bottle Coffee, MakerBot, Typekit, and High Fidelity. I'm also a personal investor in Slack. My interests include being a dad, traveling, architecture, the Cubs, scuba and IRONMAN triathlons. Originally from a small Indiana farming community, I've lived in Paris, Jakarta, New Dehli, New York and currently enjoying living in San Francisco. Happy to be answering your questions today - so please fire away!
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
(1) What do you know for sure about entrepreneurship and life in general, given your set of experiences thus far? (2) What are you sure you DON'T KNOW about entrepreneurship/life in general?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@melissajoykong 1) founders are the key ingredient, without their genius, nothing materializes. 2) why investors meddle.
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hey, Tony! I saw @veronica joined the About.me board (congrats! 🙌). What does About.me look like in 5 years?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@rrhoover @veronica is an amazing addition to our team! very special. our focus right now is to evolve about.me from a vanity based profile to an intent based profile. Jeff Veen joined us to lead product and I think everyone is going to love the evolution that we're live testing now. In 5 years, everyone active on the web should have an about.me personal page link in their email signature, on their twitter, instagram, etc bio's as the starting point for people to learn more about them but also to support the thing they're most passionate about.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Tony! One of your superpowers seems to be discovering talent before they've hit it big and helping them do so. To what do you attribute to that? What do you look for and how do you evaluate?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@eriktorenberg GREAT Q (& a long answer) Why are you doing this? We want to understand what is driving a Founder. We want to dig into the emotional need of a Founder(s) to see their idea come to life – it’s essential to determine if they have the motivation to build a great company, and more importantly, do they have the magic to spark a movement. As an example, it’s why we invested in James Freeman, Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, one of the founders of the coffee artisanal movement. When we met James, it was instantly clear that Blue Bottle Coffee wasn’t just about coffee drinks, it’s so much more than that. What we saw and why we got involved, is that James and his team are founding a movement. It’s not just the very specific experience around the coffee Blue Bottle roasts and serves, what we see is his core beliefs in the way he sources ingredients, supports farmers in developing regions of the world to grow the purest, highest quality organic beans that promote sustainability, the way he chooses his store locations that often acts a vote of confidence for a developing neighborhood, how he obsesses over small architectural details that make each cafe unique, how they serve the product [what cup, what glass, what temperature, single origin versus blended bean mixes, espresso drinks only on premise….] – thinking through every detail to offer something beautiful in our daily lives – it’s a philosophy/ an approach that has led to a movement around the integrity of experience around coffee.
Russ Frushtick@russfrushtick
What's the best indicator of a good investment?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
Hey Russ - early product traction is the best indicator - do people care about the idea you're passionate about.
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Tony! It's so great to see you here. I remember several years ago, we talked about the startup founders who most impressed you, and you mentioned @photomatt as being at the top of that list for you. Are there others who have left a strong impression on you in the last few years? Who and why?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@melissajoykong @photomatt is very special! at this point, i've been blown away by so many founders that it's hard to name just a few. there are people like Evan Williams (whom I don't work with) and then people like Ayah Bdeir (LittleBits), James Freeman (Blue Bottle Coffee), etc who all have that amazing quality of being a founder of a movement more so than just building a company.
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
@tonysphere thanks for joining us! how do you think growing up in a small Indiana farming community contributed to who you are today?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@corleyh everything. I was one of 9 kids out of 122 in my graduating class to go on to college. I learned empathy, work ethic and an ability to say yes to a wide range of work that taught me how to move forward. I've been a janitor at the local pharmacy, bailed hay, been a basketball coach, little league umpire, factory worker all by the time I was 18.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What's something you used to fervently believe that you now see as misguided?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@eriktorenberg i've never been wrong in my beliefs.......oh sure, hahahahaha
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What are your favorite books and why? (ok i'll stop...:)
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@eriktorenberg Shackleton's Journey - incredible story of leadership. Just incredible.
Raghav Haran@raghavharan
@tonysphere Hey Tony - great to see you here! I know you focus more on founders than anything else at True when making investments, but is there any particular industry you're super excited about right now?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@raghavharan I'm not industry focused to be honest. I love consumer. I love stuff that's a bit weird on the surface (MakerBot, Glowforge, Blue Bottle Coffee, High Fidelity, HODINKEE, etc are good examples). I really over index on the founder and why they're pursuing a specific market. That's what gets me excited.
Sydney Liu@sydney_liu_sl · Co-Founder of Commaful.com
Hey Tony! Thanks so much for doing this AMA! You spoke a bit about early traction in this AMA. What did that look like at about.me? It seemed to take the world by storm. Can you talk about how you tested the product initially, if you designed the viral loop, and how you positioned it for the successful launch? Thanks! Sydney
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@sydney_liu_sl about.me had over 200k sign-ups after a month so we knew we hit a pain point for people. We didn't do adequate testing and that was a mistake. Our value proposition is very compelling so now our principle focus is to get the product to align with user needs, etc - we're very close to releasing our V2 product which we've been testing relentlessly. I expect to see it go public end of December or the very beginning of January.
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
wowzer, so many good questions - my fingers are dying :) We've got time for a few more.....
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
@tonysphere thanks so much for joining us today! Recently had @brian_wong and @bfeld on @twentyminutevc and both praised the work and value add of @trueventures and was wondering what do you think the biggest value add True Ventures brings to the investments it makes? Would love to have you on @twentyminutevc huge huge fan of yours!
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@harrystebbings I love our focus on creating an environment for Founders to succeed. We are very focused on helping founders protect the DNA of their vision.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Tony thanks so much for joining us today. 🙌How did you make the leap from growing up in a small farming community to founding your own business and investing in some of the coolest new tech companies? What advice can you give to others just starting out?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@ems_hodge hahaha, a bit of luck probably. I'm a people person and put a huge emphasis on relationships. As a result, I've been lucky to meet and now partner with a group of amazing founders. It's really about finding your posse and I'm incredibly thankful for the people who've included me/ TVP on their journey.
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Hey Tony! What have you learned or gotten from living in so many different places and immersing yourself in various cultures?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@lejlahunts empathy. flexibility. the art of saying yes.
tres johnson@lowercasetres · owner/founder (drips) coffee
hey tony, hope you are well. what has been your favorite origin of coffee lately?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@lowercasetres hahaha - I love the Panamanian Gesha's! so floral, and light like a snowflake landing on your tongue :)
tres johnson@lowercasetres · owner/founder (drips) coffee
@tonysphere great description! i am all over a natty from mexico "el eden".
Mr Davis@marcuscdavis · Copywriter
@tonysphere you mentioned helping founders protect the DNA of their vision; what advice do you have for maintaining that vision once the start up starts getting bigger and people join, and the vision simply becomes 'the product'? How do you keep it real and keep everyone on the same page?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@marcuscdavis James Freeman does this beautifully at Blue Bottle. He reminds everyone, inside and outside of the company, that the vision of BBC is to serve a simple, delicious cup of coffee that adheres to the highest standards of sustainability.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@jacqvon the Galapagos.
Abhijeet Sharma@abhijeetsharma · CEO, Beam It Up (Tub Systems)
Hi Tony, I am Abhijeet founder of @beamthisup - what is more important: generating immediate product traction or building consistently and waiting for people to notice your product? Startups these days are (also) looking for immediate growth while compromising the true value ...
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@abhijeetsharma early traction is key imo. the valley is littered with lot's of clever products that lack an outreach component, don't get noticed and fail.
Tech Guerrero@techguerrero · Strategic Planner & Communicator
Hi Tony, As an About.me premium member and enthusiast my questions are centered on that brand: 1. Could you tell us what sort of plans About.Me's product & biz development teams have in mind to compete with TheGrid.io and PageCloud launching in future months? 2. Do you intend to continue About.me's partnership with NameCheap for Premium membership package renewals? i.e. student pricing for domain + premium 3. About.me branded signature is great marketing tool, are there plans to make them work with custom url's (premium members) in the future? Thanks for your time, TG = http://techguerrero.me/
Tony Conrad@tonysphere · Founder, about.me
@techguerrero 1) I don't know; 2) Yes, enthusiastically! NameCheap has been an excellent partner; 3) yes, that's coming very very soon :) And thanks!!
Tech Guerrero@techguerrero · Strategic Planner & Communicator
@tonysphere - Tony: the 3 paragraphs on identity in your response to @alexcartaz talk to me. Do you mind if I quote you for one of my blogs? http://thepostnational.com/ With credit, hashtag and url of course. TG = http://techguerrero.me/ @techguerrero