Thursday, March 5, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Paul May (37 of 45)

Paul May, CEO and co-founder of Buzzstream, is one of my favorite people in Austin. So favorite that I had dinner at his house with his wife and his two beautiful children recently. But it wasn't the food that won me over. It is the fact that Paul is interested in the same thing that I am, namely delivering a return on investment in the world of social and online communities (Peter Kim, Kyle Flaherty, Adam Cohen and Lewis Green also fall in this camp).

Check out how Paul (Twitter handle) answered the five questions from the Experts in the Industry interview series -- he does some nice sucking up in question three (it worked btw):

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I'm the CEO and co-founder of BuzzStream, a startup that's building DIY tools for managing word-of-mouth relationships.  I'm good at starting companies because I love doing it (despite the 24/7 schedule, it doesn't feel like work to me).
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I like to tinker with new technologies, which drove my initial use of social media tools.  Things grew organically from there for me.  I got into social marketing through my business partner, Jeremy Bencken, who founded  He relied on PR and social media participation to build his company, and managing those relationships was his biggest challenge.  That led to BuzzStream.
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
Ugh...I guess I should say BuzzStream, but the truth is I don't think that having that kind of money would be good for us.  Companies that need a $10 million investment don't really interest me.  Part of this is simply because I'm more passionate about smaller companies and the other part of this is because I think the really exciting uses of social media are happening in smaller organizations (not that surprising to me, given that social media is a bottom-up phenomenon).  Give me the $10 mil and let me invest in 20 companies like Balsamiq, BreakingPoint, BackType, Powered, etc. Shining examples of scrappy businesses working with small budgets, but leveraging social media and DIY tools to build brand awareness, generate demand and get product feedback. 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I like leaders who aren't particularly flashy but build value over a long period of time and engender great loyalty. In politics, it's people like Lee Hamilton and Harry Truman.  In business, it's people like Warren Buffett. 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
No…but I was on a hiking trip once with a guy who cared so much about white teeth that he brushed them as he hiked.  I'm pretty sure that guy would join a toothpaste community.
If you've been thinking of starting a company, there's no better time to do it (yes, even with the economic mess we're in).  The great companies of the next 20 years are going to get started now.  And the best part is that there's never been a time where you could get a company up and running for less money.  Google has leveled the playing field for all of us. We just have to be smart about getting our mindshare on Google.

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