The Entrepreneur’s Journey

Welcome to my blog. I’m Mike Pappas, the CEO and co-founder of Modulate. I’m writing this blog for two related reasons.

  1. I want a journal to document my thoughts – both professional and personal – as I continue learning how to develop and lead a startup to success.
  2. I want to share my experiences and perspective with others, so that they might learn from my mistakes and discoveries.

I think I have a bit of an unusual perspective about how best to do this – but in order to effectively explain that, let me give you a bit of background first.

For those of you who don’t know what Modulate is, you should check out our website; or some of the press coverage of our recent seed fundraise. But briefly, we’re a startup making the world’s first realistic, real-time voice skins. These voice skins let you customize your voice freely, while retaining all the nuance of your real speech – meaning you can use them for anything ranging from anonymity in voice chat in games to specifically designing a new online persona for yourself.

I’m sharing this not to force you to be interested in Modulate (though I certainly think it’s interesting!), but to explain the perspective I’m coming from. I’m a first-time entrepreneur who just finished fundraising successfully for the first time. Modulate is still young and, by nature of the product we sell, I spend a lot of my time thinking about issues like how to create a new market and business model, how to educate people about complicated technology, and how to ensure one’s product is used ethically and responsibly. This is of course in addition to the standard CEO concerns – how to build and hire for a great culture (and what “great culture” means to us); ensuring we have enough money in the bank; negotiating deals and balancing our focus between R&D and getting something out there; etc.

Over time, I’ll delve into all of these issues as I run into them – but to start this blog, I thought it was worth reflecting back on where I started when Modulate began.

After some thought, I’ve decided to structure that reflection in a series of posts, each covering some standard piece of “how to make a successful startup” advice and dissecting what it took before I finally came to appreciate the value of that advice. It’s one thing to say “yep, focus is important,” but another to deeply, truly appreciate the costs of losing your focus, and develop a reflex to prevent you from doing so.

The posts I hope to cover in this initial series are around the following pieces of advice:

1. Make sure you know what problem you’re solving.

2. Identify the right investors for your stage, focus, and culture.

3. Have a clear vision of how you’ll make money from your product or service.

4. Ideas are cheap, execution is what matters.

5. Build the right legal structure to protect your IP, and to avoid becoming personally liable for your business.

6. Get a great team of advisors around you.

7. Design your culture, don’t simply wait for it to emerge.

Before I go, a brief aside on this last point – culture. I’ll get into this in more detail soon, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t open by emphasizing that I live and breathe feedback – good, bad, ugly, confused, whatever you want. So long as the feedback is well-intentioned – meaning you want to clarify something or help me learn, rather than wanting to make anyone feel bad – I’ll always be grateful to hear your perspectives. I’ll endeavor to respond when I can, but know that even if I don’t have time to engage, I’ll read everything you post here and am always interested to learn whether what I’m saying has been useful, sensible, or otherwise good.

That’s all for now! Look forward to the first posts of this initial series soon.

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