An Interview With Mitch Russo

If there is any quality you need in a tech venture, it’s agility. Be ready to pivot when an obstacle comes up that you didn’t expect, or a huge opportunity presents itself. Think about how what you’re building can serve a broader purpose than just the one you set out with, and be ready to grow in that direction, while never losing focus on getting your app to market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing David Torres. David has been in the Information Technology industry since 1984 and specializes in Digital Enterprise architecture with an emphasis on usage of Cloud Technology, Software Development and Advanced Analytics techniques. Prior to his role at Feedme, he was Executive, Global Analytics at Avanade, a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture, where he worked for 15 years. He has a broad industry background, including Financial Services, Resources, Software Development, Digital Publishing and E-commerce, and focuses on creating collaborative, data-driven organizations that make decisions based on the facts found in their customers, their data, and collective knowledge of the organization. David is CEO and Chief Software Architect for Feedme Inc. Feedme is a revolutionary personal app for iOS, Android and web that brings a user’s news, information, media and social content in a superfeed that they can control.

Thank you for joining us! How did you get started with your App?

Feedme really started with a couple of us asking each other, what would social and news media look like if users were able to create it just the way they wanted. Users want convenience and control, and content creators want reliable traffic to their posts. So we created a personal superfeed app that brings all your content from the platforms and websites you already follow and love, into one convenient platform. You can get Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and RSS posts on Feedme, and we are adding more platforms as we go. Then, users can make and share minifeeds about specific topics, or from sources that they want to see together. You can have a morning minifeed where you see what’s happening in cryptocurrency or world politics, and an evening minifeed, where you look at sports updates or cat videos. You can basically make a minifeed for whatever you want, like school projects, or school and activity info for your kids. And last, you can control that content in simple ways, like upranking topics you want to see, and downranking what you don’t want. You can see your content in breaking news order, or viral order, or you can set a slider somewhere in between. In short, we started our app to take all the great things that are out there now in the social and news universe, and bring them together to give users and content creators the best experience for them individually.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Our president, Patrick Brown, really had the Aha moment. There was a specific period of time where social platforms were making a big shift to show more friends and family content in people’s feeds, and less public content like news, sports, entertainment, cat videos, things like that. Some polling was done, and a majority of Americans said they preferred to get their news and public content in social media, but it wasn’t being served to them. Then Patrick realized that all that content was still out there, even though it wasn’t showing up in people’s feeds. So if we could pull each of those individual pieces of content into Feedme, and let people adjust their own algorithm, we could give people exactly the feed they wanted, while still letting content creators publish to the platforms they already use and are familiar with.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

First of all, we’re really thankful that we’ve had the people and the resources that we’ve needed, when we’ve needed them. But it’s been tough sometimes, like when we’ve lost people on the team that we’ve really needed. A few months ago we lost a programmer, and it didn’t look like we could find someone to replace him. And then right under our nose was the person we were needing. It’s been like that all through the process. Just the right people have come to the team, just when we’ve needed them. And every month we’ve had just enough money to cover our expenses. So, we are really grateful, even when it’s really hard. Yes, sometimes it seems like it would be easier to give up than to see things through, especially when we get hit by a curve ball we weren’t expecting. But we’re really energized by the idea of giving people control over the information they want, and any time I would think about giving up, I would see how individual people, and publishers and content creators were losing more and more control over their content, and it reenergized me to meet this need that’s there in the market right now.

So, what is the progress so far? How is grit and resilience leading toward success?

Progress is good. Feedme has taken us a year and a half to build. This isn’t an app that you hack together over a weekend. But we have a great team and we’ve built a really complex platform that’s simple to use, which we feel like is a huge accomplishment. So far, we’ve brought in public content from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and about 3,000 RSS feeds. We’re looking at several more platforms after that, and we ingest several million posts a day into the system. We have a team around the country, and around the world that collaborate to make a really great user experience, and we are getting ready to launch our full blown marketing efforts soon.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

We do a lot of internal testing on the app, and it’s funny to see who in the office is the best at breaking things. We’ve built the sign on process to be super simple, so people can connect the platforms they’re already on, and follow all their content on Feedme. So I was surprised when our Chief Sales and Marketing Officer was having problems connecting both her Twitter account and her YouTube account. When I looked into it, I found that she was following 4,000 plus accounts on Twitter, and our platform was timing out, so we had to update that. But then on the other hand, she wasn’t following anyone on YouTube. She just had an account where she was posting her own videos. So we had to adjust for people to connect accounts where they didn’t follow anyone. Now we know where to go if we need someone to try and break things.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Doing an app is a challenge, and one of the biggest things is that it requires you to not only be programming, but also be fundraising. Just when we thought it was going to be really difficult to raise enough funds to sustain Feedme, we pitched the app at the Angel Investors Network’s Pitch Tank competition this summer with some well-known judges like Kevin Herrington from Shark Tank, and John Mackey from Whole Foods. We were really honored to win the whole competition, which brought in a $100,000 prize, and a lot of interest and investors. Any time we’ve run into a snag or a delay, which definitely has happened, it’s always encouraging to remember how many people are cheering for us, investing in us, and working hard to make Feedme a reality for everyone.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

There are three tips I would keep in mind when building an app, it’s about agility, humility, and making people’s lives better, including your own.

If there is any quality you need in a tech venture, it’s agility. Be ready to pivot when an obstacle comes up that you didn’t expect, or a huge opportunity presents itself. Think about how what you’re building can serve a broader purpose than just the one you set out with, and be ready to grow in that direction, while never losing focus on getting your app to market.

Another quality we really prize at Feedme is humility. Everyone here is talented and smart and willing to learn and grow, but we all recognize that there are people who know more about certain things than we do. So we hold things with open hands, and we collaborate to make sure we get the best results. Pride seems to make people dig their heels in, but being humble lets us be more agile.

When we set out to create Feedme, we did it to make people’s lives better. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that what you’re building needs to make your life better as well. Yes, there are intense seasons and a lot of hard work in what we do, but if you kill yourself to build an app that makes other people’s lives better, that doesn’t seem right. You need to build a life that you feel good about, while you’re positively impacting the world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

We have an incredible group of investors from all sorts of walks of life, each one of whom has seen the vision at exactly the right time and has come on board to make Feedme a reality. One of our investors is Herman Cain. Lots of people know him as the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. But most people don’t know that he was a programmer before he was an executive. So he really gets Feedme from the programming end, and how we’re working to provide people with the only feed they’ll ever need, with all their content they love from all the platforms they follow, all in one convenient place. It’s great to have people on board who really want to see this succeed and help to make it happen.

Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build community?

Feedme is in its beta version, and we have about 500 people on the platform testing it. We have about 25,000 people who have expressed interest to receive an invitation when the platform is launched. We are also working with lots of publishers who are excited to have their readers follow them on Feedme. Content creators will be able to continue posting to the platforms they have always used, and they can feel certain that their audiences will be able to get all their content, across all their platforms, if they want to get it.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

We are doing native digital ads in the platform. That’ something our team has a strong background in. We’re building some proprietary technology to make those ads a seamless part of the user experience, and of course, since Feedme is all about user control, we will give users control over the types of ads they see. Feedme is a free platform, but if users want to subscribe to a premium model, they can get new features and an ad-free experience.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.

First of all, know that it’s going to be harder than you suspect. From hiring and fundraising, to marketing, public relations and coding, there have been unexpected twists and turns, and uphill struggles. But if you believe what you’re doing will positively impact the world, battle through and don’t lose heart.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

We’ve already started the movement that we think will bring about an amazing amount of good. We’re working to give individuals the ability to control their own algorithm and see the content they want, while giving content creators security that they can reach the audiences who want what they produce. People don’t want to feel controlled, and they don’t want to be forced to look at content they aren’t into. And content creators rely on having a secure way to communicate with people, so that their companies can survive and thrive. It’s really important to democratize social and news media, so if someone is making good content that people want, they can get it, and content that people don’t want will fall out of their feeds.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow us on Feedme if you want to check out the preview platform. You can also find us on our website, and on all the social media channels.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

FeedMe CEO David Torres: “If there is any quality you need in a tech venture, it’s agility” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.