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David Cancel of Performable: We Love Boston Entrepreneurs

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David Cancel is a passionate entrepreneur who’s the Founder of Performable, a do-it-yourself online tool that helps business turn their online visitors into customers. Check out our fourth installment of the “We Love Boston Entrepreneurs” interview series.

Richard: It goes against some of the traditional wisdom espoused by people such as Paul Graham (of YCombinator) that the most important thing is to ‘quit your day job.’ Do you think that is generally correct or do you have any insights from your experience to help other entrepreneurs make that decision? What made you take the leap into becoming a full time entrepreneur?

David: I became an entrepreneur because I didn’t like working for someone else. 😉

Actually I think it has a lot to do with my parents and my upbringing. I am a first generation American, my dad immigrated to the US from Puerto Rico and my mom from Ecuador. Both of them were entrepreneurs out of necessity. They were also the hardest working people I’ve ever met; believe me your hardest day at your startup doesn’t even come close. They taught me to work hard, to be scrappy, to stay humble and that the American dream is real.

There are two types of people, those that are entrepreneurs and those that aren’t. Entrepreneurs share a mental flaw, they cannot help but to start businesses, you either have this genetic flaw or you don’t. There are much easier ways to make money then to be an entrepreneur, so my advice is to pursue those opportunities if you cannot convince yourself to take the leap.

Richard: You are clearly very active in the local entrepreneur scene in terms of attendance and speaking. As an entrepreneur I find it is often hardest to quantify the value of attending/participating at an event. As a “data obsessed” person how do you evaluate and justify the involvement?

David: I don’t think there’s any tangible benefit to attending startup events.

The best use of your time is to spend every minute you can spare in-front of your customers and prospects. All other time should be spent on building & managing your team and product/service.

The only reason I spend so much time speaking at startup events is that I am passionate about meeting & learning from other entrepreneurs. I love entrepreneurs and find them inspirational.  This doesn’t help my business much but I can’t help myself, I love learning, this is purely for selfish reasons.

Richard: You’ve put together an amazing team at Performable. I can imagine having such an entrepreneurial mindset at the company could encourage people to start their own projects/businesses. How do you first find such talented people and then manage to retain them?

David: Thank you!!!

I love my team at Performable. They are the best team I’ve ever worked with. I love building teams as much as I love building businesses.

I see everything as a learning opportunity and believe everyone who joins our team is similarly obsessed by learning. I hope that everyone that works for me goes off and starts their own businesses someday, I’ll be the first person to help them if they do. I make this very clear to all my team members. The big mistake I see others make is to expect that everyone who works for them to be there for life.

I believe the day you stop learning at your job is the day you should quit and move on to the next experience. The only way to increase your value in the market is to continuously learn and better yourself.

Richard: As an angel investor you get to see a lot of cutting-edge business ideas. Do you have any insights into what new trends might be interesting for entrepreneurs to be thinking about right now?

David: Nope. I’m not interested in macro trends or anything “cutting-edge”.

The only reason to start a business is to solve a customers pain and to make their lives a little bit better. Ideas are worthless, go solve a real customer pain.

Richard: Designers and developers seem to have endless stories about how terrible their clients are treating them (SeeClientsFromHell.tumblr.com for examples). Based on our own experience and the “word on the street” (read Twitter) could you tell me about how you generally deal with difficult clients?

David: Hmm. I’ve never seen that site before. Frankly I find it offensive.

Businesses need customers more than customers need businesses. You should be so lucky to have customers, treat them like gold and don’t patronize them by posting crap like that on the web. If customers are asking odd questions that means that you need to do a better job educating them and positioning your service.

I love our customers and I aspire to WOW them with a fabulous customer experience each and every day. I recommend everyone do the same.
Read the full line-up of entrepreneurial interviews here: We Love Boston Entrepreneur

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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