Jonathan Sposato is based in Seattle and is, for all intents and purposes, a serial investor. He’s invested in many a start-up in his day, and now serves as the Chairman and CEO of GeekWire, and CEO of PicMonkey. But Jonathan is more than the sum of his investments, dedicating much time and energy to championing causes such as gender equality in tech and a fairer approach to immigration.
At the recent Business is an Adventure event in Seattle, I had the chance to sit down with Jonathan to pick his brain and figure out what makes him tick, what he sees for the future of tech and discover some tips he has for new entrepreneurs.
On angel Investing
"I don’t have a real tried and true method when I’m deciding what business to invest in or who to invest in. It’s an interesting mix of gut and emotion and I ask myself 'do I believe in the person?' I try to be agnostic of the product and focus on the people. Do these people have the values I believe in, and will those values lead them to success? Are they fishing in a big pond AND are they good fishermen? That’s the key."
On women in tech
"Only 24 CEOs in the Fortune 500 are women, and only seven pre cent of board members are women. That’s unacceptable and it has to change. I’ve been called a reverse sexist before, but at PicMonkey we have a 50/50 split between men and women, which is more representative of the world we live in. You’ve got to have thick skin, because there are a lot of haters out there. We should make work more gender equal and diversified. Period."
On the future of immigration and tech
"The tech industry, as is the case for many industries, is full of immigrants or the sons/daughters of immigrants. We’ve got a big problem brewing today in the US political system regarding immigration, and we’ve got to change. We’ve got to drop the politeness and focus on human and societal issues. Channel you anger into action and move the needle back. Immigration is vital to the tech sector, and we’ve got to be able to source the talent."
"I’m incredibly proud of WeCount. The homeless population in Seattle is almost double what it was just six years ago. About 90 per cent of homeless people have a cellphone, tablet, or laptop. So WeCount is a way for people who have items and can provide help to connect with people who need items and help. We recently bought a bunch of old newspaper boxes and painted them blue, deploying them around the city. Items such as socks can be placed in those bins, and if you need one, you can take one. You’ve got to be the change you want to see in the world."
On tips for new entrepreneurs
"You don’t have a roadmap a lot of times just starting out, so when you have success you feel more lucky than good. Always strive for improvement and understand that sometimes luck is just that… luck!
"One huge tip is to remember that if you have a great product but no voice, you can’t succeed. Proactive PR is necessary for all businesses. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get it going either. Find a boutique PR firm to strategize your message. Perhaps even look out there for a social media intern, someone (probably younger than you) that would work for free or close to it, maybe even from a local university. This could help you get your voice out there to the world! "
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