Mahieu Studios Podcast #1 (M.S.P#1): Entrepreneur John SaddingtonClick here for the audio of M.S.P #1 Podcast
A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to interview Entrepreneur, John Saddington. He is a Korean Adopted twin who resides in Atlanta, Georgia and he successfully sold his own social platform. He’s worked as an executive for Fortune 50 companies and launched his own start-ups. His work has been featured on CBS Atlanta, Fox News, and Forbes. Follow his transcribed audio answers as he shares his experiences, advice, and answers about creating your own business.
(Please note - the following is a transcription from our Mahieu Studio’s Podcast and may not be exact or grammatically correct. Thank you.) Audio Link.
John Saddington Audio Transcription
John Saddington: Thank you for having me and being able to answer your questions. I hope to bring as much value to you guys.
Mahieu Studios Q1: Tell us your name and tells us a little about yourself?
My name is John Saddington and I live in Atlanta Georgia, I grew up in Jersey but I am now very comfortable living in the south. i have been married for 8 years, i have 2 beautiful girls, Arden being 3 and Rowen being 7. Its been absolutely nuts! i graduated from Georgia Tech with a science Bachelor’s degree. A combination of Post Modern Philosophy in front end design psychology. It was a really a strange degree! I entered as a Computer Science Major, I literally failed out! I should have been a college drop-out but I got some incredible mentorship and managed to complete the degree. I honored my parents at the same time which was awesome. And then I went on to get 2 graduate degrees at Dallas Seminary biblical studies, Masters in Christian education. Education is a huge part of what I do and is a big passion of mine and providing value in that way. I believe that is one of the timeless ways that we as a people group, as a generation, can give back to those coming up behind us. Professionally, I have been a software engineer for as long as I can remember and I have had some really great -success doing that. I have worked for some fortune 50 companies Johnson & Johnson, Dell. I became an executive at Fox & News Corp. That was fine but that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my life and I’m certainly not a super fan of bureaucracy and management, so I started building my own applications. In around 2007 is when I started exploring entrepreneurship, then I became a full entrepreneur. I’ve raised venture capital, I’ve had a few successes & exits, and I continue to do that today. I’ve spent time with other startups and mentoring them - and providing value to them. Then leading my own.
Mahieu Studios Q2: I know you started at a young age. Can you tells us more about how you got started? Who influenced you?
Uh - I’m not exactly sure how I got started with software programming, but I can definitely tell you how I started getting involved with typing. Typing is a natural thing that’s required for programmers because speech to text isn’t very good. Yet, in this lifetime it could be pretty incredible. But um - My mother realized early on that I was fascinated with typing and with words. So very young, at around age 6 or 7 I can remember being in her basement that summer when all of my siblings, I’m the oldest of 5, and my friends were out playing outside. I was in this incredibly cold basement with an IBM Selectric typewriter learning how to type. I mastered this skill very early on and I was just fascinated by technology, the ability to create stories essentially for others and myself. I believe software programming is very much a narrative exercise. Very much a way to tell a story, a functional story. So, it was definitely my mom who provided that influence and definitely the Selectric typewriter. My father instilled an incredible philosophy and work ethic. He worked for the same company for 37 or 38 years and he has this thing called a pension which is awesome! I have no idea what that is and what it will be. But he provided all throughout my childhood and for my mom. He was still present and available for his family and 5 kids. I saw this really neat dichotomy between work and family and a passion for both. He really loved what he did. That really influenced the way I see the world not only my past times but also my vocation, my work. Moving forward though, one of the greatest influences for me at a much later stage in life but I feel is very important was the late Steve Jobs. He was an incredible influence for me in terms of product development, the way he saw the world, the way he saw doing things differently, not just from a design perspective but also from a technology software and even a liberal arts way. He was the guy who suggested everyone should have a liberal arts education in some form or fashion. Software engineering is a liberal art as much as we think of it as a science and technology. It is really a part of our culture and has become more fundamental, a language really that we speak daily. So, Steve Jobs was a huge influence for me.
Mahieu Studios Q3: Can you tell us about why you created your first social platform? Why adoptees?
One of my first technology applications became used by the public was an adoptee social network that I had created and that was in, I want to say, 2007. It got onto the front page of Austin American Statesman. I was in Austin at the time working for a large technology company there. The inspiration was very simple. I’m not sure if inspiration is even the right word, but what I realized very quickly was that there are native characteristics, and intrinsic qualities of whom I am, I know, obviously the best about. I think entrepreneurs realize this and the things they see be the most successful are based off of them self. It is almost a self reflectory activity if you will. And so, I knew about being adopted and I definitely knew about technology. I bridged those two and thought “I bet adoptees would like a social place to gather”. At the time, MySpace was still a big deal and in fact, I was courted to move into the MySpace organization at one point. Then, I eventually got hired by Fox which then bought MySpace which made for some interesting - interplay there. That was it, just a place for adoptees to communicate. I had the experience and pleasure of interacting with other adoptees through some heritage camps I went to when I was younger. I was adopted via Holt which is a fantastic adoption organization. Really one of the first to come into South Korea. It has just really been a leader in the adoptive world. And they would have these heritage camps every year in Jersey and then I spent a few years in Oregon. There, I got to get a taste of the culture and got to meet other adoptees. There is something very powerful about connecting with other adoptees and South Korea natives . So, that was awesome! I knew that technology was where everyone was headed so I tried to connect those two. It was a success in a lot of ways. It did not last. It essentially closed down but I used the code in my next venture which was also successful. It’s an ongoing journey of entrepreneurship and continuing to build upon previous lessons learned.
Mahieu Studios Q4: How did you create your first start-up? Was there a certain platform and why did you choose it?
I shared one of my first forays into a public application but my first startup was actually much, much earlier. When I was in high school. I was in my freshman year. I knew I’d like to build applications. One of my father’s good friends was an entrepreneur himself. He had just sold his company to Microsoft. He had come into some money but the money part was not that big of a deal. It was more that he was successful. He had achieved am exit which many entrepreneurs want to experience, and of course with a huge kind of brand. He is an incredible intelligent guy, and I am still in contact with him today. He mentored me in a lot of ways and came along side of me. He said “This is really cool that you are fascinated by computers and that you’ve been coding for yourself. What about building applications for other people?” I did not really understand what that meant. I had built small maps for a computer game called "Unreal Tournament”, Quake, and a bunch of kind of online games. I had never really put the two pieces together that I was building for other people. I was still building for me. I was building these maps so I could use them. It just so happens that I had to distribute them to others. I said “Wow, so - can I build my own business”? He said “Yeah”. He told me he would do all the paperwork, buy my server for me, and get the domain name setup. All I need to do was build. That was awesome and it was like a Thursday or Friday we had that conversation. Saturday I was thinking about "what do I name my first business”? Oh geez, a thirteen or fourteen year old! I don’t know. It came to Sunday, and I was sitting there in church and I just opened the Bible. It was one of those Bibles that had footnotes that had more specifics about the scripture and passage. I turned to the birth of Jesus story. We were coming into the season of Advent. We were getting closer to Christmas. Anyways - this footnote shared the three names of the Wiseman Gaspar, Balthasar, Melchior. I thought, man, those are really cool names! I looked one, Melchior and thought that is bad ass! I said that’s what my company is going to be called, Melchior Designs. I told my dad’s friend, “Hey Melchoir Designs is the name” and that the company would build applications for other people. That is how Melchior started and that was my first startup. I built a few software applications and a few websites for people but it did not really take off but that is fine. It really gave me a taste of what it is like to build for other people and getting compensated for that work which was very important. And I had a lot of fun with it.
Mahieu Studios Q5: What are some early lessons you learned building your own business or brand?
Some early lessons that I’ve learned, um, about building a business and a brand. To be quite honest I’m not sure if I can even remember what those early lessons were. I can definitely tell you something I learned very quickly about what I learned when building a business was that money changes people. My father had told me this very early on in life. He said, “No matter their pedigree, their background whether it is religious, no matter what their philosophy, money changes people. And just remember that”. And I was like yeah that makes a lot of sense - I think. Um. I was young and then I got to experience that. I started my first partnership a kind of agency and organization right in the last year of college. And I had been building myself as contractor for these large companies. I started building software for fortune 50 when I was 14 or 15. I started my first agency with 2 guys and they went to my church. It was fun. We were going to build software, applications, websites for local businesses. In the beginning it was fine and dandy. Everything was fine and dandy. And then we got our first big check. It was a big check. At the time, I don’t know it was around 3 thousand dollars which was huge for us. We were all like “Yes, we have made it!” But then, we had to divide it and the divisions weren’t fair. We had not locked down the equities positions or ownership of the company. I didn’t know really what I was doing, I was just the developer. To make a long story short, it fell apart and I have not spoken with them for a long time. This was over a decade ago and it is really sad. I learned very quickly that money does change people. You have to really qualify the moral character and the integrity with the people you work with. Just know that even if they are great integrity, that money can be very challenging when it comes to a large sum. It was definitely an early lesson for building your business. Brand - I don’t know. I think I have an idea of a brand but brands evolve. It’s one of the most important things. And change which is a good thing. Even the explicit iconography or typefaces, even the logos can change which is good. They should evolve as the market shifts and the culture continues to press on. I’m still learning about brand development.
Mahieu Studios Q6: Did you ever think you would sell your social platform? How did you know it was the right time to sell?
There have been a couple times when I have sold my application, most of them have been social. Ultimately, how I determine that it was the right time to sell was simply gauging some more emotive - motivations if you will. I simply asked myself it was time to move on and how I felt about it. And felt is probably the right word. How did I feel? Was there more I could bring to the business and application itself? Or, was there another opportunity I wanted to scratch? Or kind of scratch my itch. So to speak. Was there another opportunity I want to explore? It was that interest, more than maintaining and building the obviously successful company. That’s very difficult to answer. It changes every singe time. After the first time, I knew that was something I wanted to continue doing. I love building attractive IP, intellectual property, and then doing some good damage with it. Then, if I could exit and receive a large amount of compensation then I could go do it again. I was the kid building erector sets. I loved legos. Especially, technique which had the pneumatic pumps for legos. Erector sets and Link-in logs. If you could build it, I was interested in it. I always wanted to continue to be challenged and I love building new things. Once you build all the technique sets Legos produced then you gotta to go find something else to build.
Mahieu Studios Q7: Looking back at the ups and downs, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs? What are the ups and downs?
Really the only advice I have is first just get started! Entrepreneurship is like a muscle. It becomes more refined the more you use it. The metaphor of working out works apply here. If you do not work out, then you will get fat and perhaps overweight. To be healthy you have to work out and go to the gym. To continue the metaphor, you have to exercise those muscles and continue to use them. Your going to make a lot of mistakes but that is okay. The process of becoming an entrepreneur never stops. You have to begin to exercise it to see 1. if this is something you want to do, and 2 to continue to be successful. I think success begets success. Not as often as you would like but that is okay. So, first exercise, 2 is get help. You cannot do it alone! I have had a lot of fun with partners and we have been able to build products faster and generally be more successful. Although, I have been the sole found in many instances so I know what both worlds are like. I highly suggest getting help, getting partners, mentors, and advisors. Get people around you who do not have a financial interest but have an interest in you as a person. Find people who want to support you in your individual growth.
Mahieu Studios Q8: What was your greatest fear when you first started? Or what was keeping you from success?
To be honest, I did not start with any fear. With my first venture I did not know anything. I was an idiot. I did not know what I did not know and I did know what I should be scared of. That was a very good thing because I started out without any anxiety. i started out without thinking about failure. Fear was introduced later when I understood what success was. That is an unfortunate consequence of success is once you taste then the reciprocal is recognizing the reciprocal. Then I knew what fear was, it was not success or it was not being as successful or it was not making some marks in terms of the last venture.
Mahieu Studios Q9: How did you get through the difficult times? Are there any resources that helped you?
Being an entrepreneur is a challenge every single day! It is also a joy. Those things are paired really well together. Anybody who has done something intensely for a long time knows the interesting balance and tension between joy and pain. There have been difficult financial times for me and my family where we have been literally counting the pennies until they leave our pockets. And then of course there have been times when we have seen plenty. The first thing that has kept me going is my wife. My wife is now my biggest fan. She supports me unconditionally and is incredibly intelligent. She also vets those opportunities and helps me make the better decisions. Two, my faith has always played a role in my startups and ventures. Personally, it keeps me going Lastly, but most importantly, I feel time is running out! I can either sulk and think woe is me but there is incredible value to be created and that is what we should be focusing on. I have what we call a bias towards action. I just want to get ___ done and not waste time! All entrepreneurs have that within them. They want to get going and build stuff. We are all going to be dust and ashes by the time we know it. In terms of resources, the web is just filled with resources. Everyone speaks differently to everyone. A recommendation would be to just follow the people who are passionate about the things you are passionate about. Learn from someone who is more advanced in their career and experience.
Mahieu Studios Q10: Anything else you would tell someone who is thinking about getting started?
Just start, less deliberation, more execution! just get going and see what happens. See what happens in terms of your ideas, how they mature, how they change, how they evolve, shift. See who wants to be involved, See how networking applies to your ideas with other people. Keep your mind open to it and see what happens.
Mahieu Studios Q11: Can you tell us about your current projects or ideas?
Right now I am currently focused on a project called PressGram. This is an iOS application right now which allows you to publish filtered photos to your WordPress blog which is a social network as well. it is an incredible application, 1. because it is very functional, it creates a lot of value for other people. Secondly, it provides and is a neat alternative to InstaGram. It is philosophically different than the other filtered photo applications. It really focuses on the end user and their creative rights over their work. This allows them to publish directly to their WordPress blog and gives them more page views, more control over their content. I think this is very important to the artists and their control over their content.
Mahieu Studios Q12: Is there anything you want to tell the adoptee community in Minnesota?
I would love to visit you guys sometime and it would be an awesome experience.
Mahieu Studios Q13: Any closing comments you would like to tell our readers/listeners when it comes to entrepreneurship? Anything else they can learn from your experiences?
Keep your mind open to the possibilities and see what happens!
Mahieu Studios Q14: How can our readers/listeners reach you or follow your projects? (Email, website, etc.)
You can reach me at my website john.do or email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org I use twitter profusely @saddington and i should be able to connect with you there.
-Interview by Mahieu Spaid at MahieuStudios.com
Creating Character for Today!
We would like to take the time to tell John Saddington, "Thank you!" We truly appreciate you taking the time to answer all of our questions. You can also listen to another audio interview with John Saddington on the Smart Passive Income Podcast with Pat Flynn on SPI #61 or http://www.smartpassiveincome.com.
Look for our audio version here.
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