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17 February 2011

Ben Zotto of Penultimate is a Stand-up Guy

Just had a great meeting with Ben Zotto of Penultimate fame–hyperpopular iPad app that’s always in the top 10. Our discussion ranged from short-term strategies for both our companies and our products, to the more casual topic of what to see in Argentina. One thing that is clear after this meeting is he’s a quality person of substance. He’s also looking for a good rock-star developer to help him out and help his company grow. So if you want to work for a promising company with a stand-up boss, give him a shout-out.

While we had fun hashing out ideas for each other’s products, what was really interesting is talking about our business models and where to take them and how to grow gracefully. There are a couple decisions that you have to grapple with fairly early on and that’s whether you try to boot-strap your way through growth or to seek funding to push you to the next level. They represent two modes that really play off your personality. That is do you stay in your comfort zone or do you go engines on full? What’s clear is that the risks are far greater if you go the boot-strap route, it takes capital to attract that super talent that our industry relies on. Your chances of success are much greater if you can secure funding. This article by Mark Davis really digs into the pros and cons of both.

When you get to this cross-road you get hit with your first existential crisis. What type of firm do you want to run? Do you want to run a large business that cranks out volume or do you want to be a small personalized boutique that concentrates on customer relationships, quality products, and sustained relationships. There’s a lot more risk in the later, but greater personal rewards.

Another thing that struck me was a sense that we were each trying build something bigger then just our individual products. It was almost like there was a meta goal of trying bring to fruition our ideal company, seeing the company as an extension of our values. “The play’s the thing!” We want to build companies that are virtuous. We want to treat people well, give people opportunities, chances for growth, actualization, driven by quality and craftsmanship. I personally see companies as social institutions that have roll in society for good. They shouldn’t just take, they are obliged to provide to the society from which they benefit. Provide to the people from which their profits are derived. It’s more fun to think about creating a great institution that thrives in every sense, then a hollow endeavor that’s just there to skim a little capital out of the economic ecosystem and put it in my pocket.