Tech Startups: Ronald Friedlander of ReviewPro


April 6, 2011: Today’s talk is from Ronald J. Friedlander, founder and CEO of ReviewPRO, a startup dealing with social media monitoring and reputation management for hotels. (see image at left to see how it works).

Ronald first came to Spain in 1999 – and was hired because he knew how to send an email.  Spain was definitely behind the United States in terms of the internet business.

Back in 2005-2006, no hotels were really monitoring their online reputation.  Ronald looked at trends and saw how user generating content was exploding (and thus, harder to track and keep on top of).  He founded the company in October 2008, based in Barcelona.  In contrast to what we have often been advised, to have deep industry knowledge, his sales guy has never worked in a hotel.

Some lessons:

1) If you get rejected, don’t do exactly the same thing and expect a different result.  When some folks in the class questioned this as lacking persistence, the point was clarified to mean that you have to be flexible and adjust your technique to fit your audience.

2) Product is key.  Clients are key.  This is a common theme that we have seen in the MBA and in Tech Startups.  In particular, in order to be successful as a business you have to have a good product and a great relationship with your customers.  Take care of them both!

3) Sometimes its good to not have industry experience – fresh perspectives.  In a greater sense I took this advice to also mean that you can find ways of turning a perceived weakness into a strength.

Ronald discussed some ways of capturing potential clients:

  • Buying attention (advertising).  Varies in price.
  • Beg for media (public relations).
  • Bug people one at a time (sales).  Expensive!
  • Earn attention by creating interesting and valuable content and publishing it online for free.  If you have the ability to create the content, in my opinion this is an extremely effective way of generating interest in your product.

Some additional closing lessons that we were given were:

  1. Do things differently and build stuff people value.  In other words, have a unique selling proposition.
    Everything you achieve will be determined by the relationships you have with others. In other words, relationships are key in business).
    It is critical to measure closely all the key areas of your business, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.  On the other hand, I would argue that there are some very important things to keep in mind here.  Measuring the wrong things is distracting, and measuring the right things the wrong way will lead to wrong decisions.
    Pick your partners very carefully – it is easier to get a divorce than get rid of a partner.  Take your time to pick the right partners, and do your due diligence.
    There are risks in taking VC funding, and you may end up essentially having options in a company that you don’t control.  The shareholder agreement is key to understanding the dynamics here.  This is something that we heard many times over the course of this course and is clearly very very important to understand.  Just getting VC funding does not mean it’s a “win” – be very careful.
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