Interview with Craig Tumblison
A interview with Craig Tumblison, the owner of Bitcove which is his own business. A 19 year old guy from the USA who is into technology, law and politics but above all: into all aspects related to owning and managing a buisiness! Check out more below and be sure to check out the misc links!
1. Max Pen: Could you tell us a bit more about yourself so the readers know who you are?
Craig Tumblison: Sure! My name is Craig Tumblison, I’m 19 years old and from Ohio, USA. I started my first business at the age of 18 (my final year of schooling). My core interests include business, technology, law, and politics.
2. Max Pen: How did you get interested to start your own business? Did you study it in school if so what sparkled that interest to study it? How long did you have the idea to start your own business/company?
Craig Tumblison: I come from a long line of small business owners, so one might say the drive is in my blood. I first explored the idea of starting my own when I began working for my dad’s construction firm during my summers in school. I knew I wasn’t a fan of the type of work he did, but I did like the freedom owing a business had to offer.
Once I entered high school I was able to get involved in a course offered by a local college that pushed business and technology. My Instructor had several IT Consulting firms himself, and was able to steer a lot of us in the right direction. Part of the course involved being activate in an organization called SAGE (Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship), which holds annual competitions across the globe for small businesses to compete for prize money and more importantly, the ability to meet top notch judges. My fondest memory was meeting the creator of the Chia Pet, that really woke me up to what was possible, even at 18 years old.
3. Max Pen: If you followed courses in school related to marketing and such have these helped you to realize your goals and such more easy? (So has it helped what you learned in school in a major way online.)
Craig Tumblison: Apart from the college sponsored course, I did take several offered directly by my school. I didn’t take marketing, but I did take Accounting, Intro to Business, and Entrepreneurship. As these were general classes, a lot of the information was an overview compared to what I had learned from the college course. I did really enough the class projects though, it gave me a fantastic stage to showcase ideas ahead of public release.
4. Max Pen: What have been so far the hardest challenges with your company? Are the requirements or paper work a lot for starting your own company?
Craig Tumblison: There was paperwork and fees involved, yes, but that is easy compared to the real challenge: staying afloat. The vast majority of small businesses fail during their first calendar year, some never even get to file taxes. I’m happy to say I achieved that goal, and was able to make a (very very small) amount of profit my first year and legally file taxes on it.
The hardest challenge I’ve personally had to face is time. Working for my company is a full time job, but I also have another full time job. It can take years for businesses to become profitable enough to live on (5 is a standard), and since I took $0 in funding (seriously – no funding from anyone) I still need a stable income on the side to invest and pay my own bills. It’s tough, but ultimately its the price you pay.
5. Max Pen: How did you get into forums and eventually owning forums yourself? Do you remember your first forum of your own if so could you tell us a bit more about it?
Craig Tumblison: I’ve always been a geek. I started my first forum at 11 on InvisionFree. I can’t remember what the niche was, but I do remember the skin I choose was neon green on black. Different times
Fast forwarding a few years, I decided to take a risk and unveil a network of forums called “ForumFlock“. That ultimately back fired when I was unable to find enough active staff to help manage the flagship forum, and interested dwindled. In retrospect I should have offered more incentive for those staff, but retrospect is 20/20.
Looking to the future, my strong opinion is that forums will decline in usage. Development forums will be replaced by GitHub style websites. Support forums will be replaced by knowledge bases and ticket systems. Ultimately there will be very few cases where a forum makes more sense than another type of software. In the short term, I see forums becoming much more social with Google+ / Facebook / Twitter logins (in place of the former OpenID system). That’s just my personal opinion, however.
6. Max Pen: When and why did you make the decision to change the focus build around the company from websites/forums to real life ventures?
Craig Tumblison: To clarify the purpose of my company: we are a venture firm. We buy and sell companies. We also start companies and sell stock. The end goal was to always own a very diverse portfolio of organizations, from lawn care services to retail outlets to eBay style auction websites. Realistically, with $0 in funding, we couldn’t purchase a brick building at the start to rent out. It simply wasn’t in the cards. The web offers an amazing connection though, it runs on digital products and services. The start up cost of a web venture is far lower than that of a brick and mortar venture, so we opted to primarily go after web ventures in the start. As our profit increases over time (and it very well may be 5 years down the road), we will start to “jump” into the real world.
7. Max Pen: Does this mean you’ll be buying company buildings and such?
Craig Tumblison: As soon as they’re needed. At the moment our portfolio is web ventures. That allows us to work from anywhere that has WiFi or 3G available. We have our meetings via Google+ Hangouts and money is sent via PayPal. It’s all digital to match our ventures. My office is a separate room in my house, but the mailing address is still the same. When our business ventures begin to move into the physical realm, so will our HQ. To do so sooner would be a large overhead increase without a need.
8. Max Pen: What is for you most important for your company? That its enjoyable, that its profitable, etc…
Craig Tumblison: Branding reach. That’s my deal. I’m not interested in making loads of money, I’m willing to work long hours. I would very much like to see my company logo on a wide variety of different products in the physical world. I want my logo on cell phones, on computers, on paint cans, etc. All this can be accomplished by purchasing the companies that produces those products (or starting a competitor) and then having our logo placed on them. I love what Apple has done with their branding, you cannot miss their logo. It’s done extremely well. That’s what I would like to see with mine.
And yes, that may seem a bit odd. Ultimately I just want to know that people know about my work. Even more so, I want to be reminded of how much work I’ve done when I turn my phone over or turn on my TV. It’s a far-reaching dream, but dreams power innovation.
9. Max Pen: Other then yourself there work 3 other people on your company, can you tell us the story of each of when they got hired and why you picked them? Also what are your requirements to work at your company?
Craig Tumblison: To clarify, I am the only legal employee. The three you’re referring to are contributors, and are paid to do certain tasks from time to time. It may not seem like much of a difference, but for legal purposes it is.
On that note, contributors actually change pretty often. I don’t update the website as much as they change. It works in the same way as you might have a dedicated friend you go to for accounting advice, although you have a separate accountant. Our contributors are simply people who know a lot about a certain sector of a certain industry, and are able to steer me in the right direction. I’m young and I don’t know everything about everything – these people fill in the gaps and correct me when I’m wrong.
In regards to requirements, there isn’t an application process. These are people I’ve hand selected because I trust their judgement.
10. Max Pen: Tell us what you like the most about marketing and the most effective marketing campaign you did so far online for any of your projects?
Craig Tumblison: Marketing is actually one of my favorite parts of the business ecosystem because it’s fun. I love the artistic ability involved in marketing, you really can do anything so long as you make it enjoyable. A large car insurance company in the USA ran commercials showing a pig saying “weeeeeee!“, which is just awesome to see on television. Marketing is unmatched in that regard.
The most effective campaign is probably for my company itself, the logo. When the forum network was active, I made sure the root company logo was seen on each and every page. That’s the brand I want to focus on building the most. Once we have a few established ventures, we can begin to feed off that logo (“a new company from the guys who brought you X!”) and hopefully expand.
11. Max Pen: What are your favorite Google products/services and why? How did you get into the Google ecosystem? For those who don’t know what that is how would you best explain it to them?
Craig Tumblison: For those unaware, I’m a Google nut. I run all my emails through GMail (Apps), I use Chrome, I use Chrome OS on a Chromebook, and I love my Android phone (which uses Google Voice for calls and text messages). I also jam to Google Music, and share everything on Google+. I’m heavily invested.
I would like to go on record saying that Google products aren’t for everyone. I’m not the type of person who will call you names for using Windows or having an iPod. Competition is great, and I love to see Microsoft and Apple drive it as well. The new surface is interesting, and Apple’s retina display certainly caught my eye.
12. Max Pen: Tell us how you have protected your company from copyright infrightment so far? What do you know about copyright and how to protect it? Have you had any issues so far with someone stealing something from your company or using it without your permission? How you response to someone who would do this?
Craig Tumblison: I do have a lawyer on retainer for dealing with these types of issues. He’s a professional in his field and is used by a large number of companies that operate web ventures.
I have had someone “steal” (that isn’t the right term) from my company. For the forum network, we paid to have a custom design created and coded. In total it ran us a few hundred dollars, nothing too outrageous. The key is that we kept it exclusive, we weren’t making it available to anyone but us. We also claimed it as part of our tradedress (like a trademark, but on design elements associated with your name).
A few weeks after launch, I noticed that there was a person requesting our theme to be “ripped” (taken image by image, and recompiled) and made available for free to anyone. I wasn’t going to stand for that. I’m actually very pro-copyright reform, but this wasn’t an issue of “lost sales“, rather someone “pretending to be us“, which is what trademarks protect. Luckily the person in question was underage, and we were able to work out a settlement. As part of that, I’m not allowed to reveal his or her identity.
13. Max Pen: What do you aim to accomplish with this project http://www.partysolo.com/? What should people expect to find or do on it in the near future?
Craig Tumblison: #PartySolo is a social networking firm with a lime twist. Instead of managing current brands for other organizations, we opted to mix up the system a bit. I love TV, and I love characters on TV. Some characters have Twitter accounts, most do not. The ones who do usually only tweet during the show. This left me wondering what the characters were doing the rest of the week.
Since negotiating character licensing with production studios as a start up is near impossible, the idea behind #PartySolo is to create our own characters. Real, fake people who are straight out of TV. Not parody accounts, but original names and original content. Our end goal is to get some of our characters guest appearances on TV shows (which would in turn get us more followers).
14. Max Pen: Tell us more about this project http://www.leoghost.com/? (How you came up with the idea and what you aim to do with it in the future.)
Craig Tumblison: @LeoGhost is one of the characters introduced for #PartySolo. He’s our flagship, and sets the tone for our goals. He’s modeled to be a smart, rich womanizer that enjoys dark humor. In essence, he’s designed to be what a lot of people wish they were – just like TV characters often are.
15. Max Pen: How many project ideas do you have now and how long does it take for you to realize a project idea? (What stuff do you do or prepare, etc..)
Craig Tumblison: I have hundreds, if not thousands of concepts and ideas in total. I won’t say where I keep them though. When we decide we want to launch something new we usually access that list of ideas and run them through a “Rubric of Realistically” to skim off the ones that aren’t feasible at that point in time, and then consider the rest in more detail. Depending on the size of the project the time scale can range. It took around 3 months to launch the flagship of that forum network, so that might be a good baseline estimate for projects like that.
16. Max Pen: If you look back at your career so far what are some of the most enjoyable memories you have had untin now?
Craig Tumblison: Moments shared with others set aside – I think the biggest moment for myself was opening the letter from the state that contained my business papers. I had put work in, filed the papers myself and sent in the check, but none of it was real until I opened that envelope and saw I was approved.
In second place would probably be placing third in the USA during the SAGE competition. It was amazingly neat to be in a formal dinning room with people from major organizations. Even though we didn’t win, we did beat out a lot of others, and we got to be part of the experience.
Third place memory belongs to graduating from high school with the title of “business scholar” for my class. While not a huge deal, it was nice to know that for all schooling purposes I was the business guy in my class.
17. Max Pen: Tell us what you are proud of at the moment to have finalized online and what are some of the things you think you should work on more?
Craig Tumblison: I was quite proud of the forum network, but proud is relative and you have to be willing to destroy everything you’ve created to get ahead. The choice to shut it down and part it out wasn’t easy, but I don’t make a lot of easy choices. I also quite like my personal website.
The one website I’ve never been happy with is the homepage for my business. I have despised every version we’ve ever had, both from paid templates and ones I designed. I doubt I’ll ever be happy with that though.
18. Max Pen: Finally if you could alter the past online or offline, which would you choose and what scenario would you change and why?
Craig Tumblison: As cheesy as it may sound, I wouldn’t. Everything I’ve ever had to deal with has shaped me into who I am. To exchange any part of that changes who I am, which I don’t feel is needed. I’m confident in my abilities to overcome challenges, and several poor experiences in my life have prepared me to do so. Sorry to disappoint, but my answer is none.
Thank you for doing the interview with me Craig. I enjoyed your replies and I hope the others will to. -Max Pen