Interview with Joshua Davidson(@dasjoshua)
I was so happy Josh answered my questions, and boy did he give some great answers!
How/why/when was Chop Dawg started?
It is important to note ahead of this story that I never knew my ambition, my passion, my love would be being an entrepreneur. I had no idea when I started Chop Dawg that this was my ultimate path, my destiny I guess, haha! I thought at 16 years old, I was destined to become like some engineer and go to some school that I couldn't afford. You know, down that stereotypical career path most people go through. But kind of thanks to the recession (no joke), someone had a better plan for me.
I grew up down at the Jersey Shore (it isn't like the television show, sorry to burst everyones bubbles). Typically for a kid on the Jersey Shore at 16, a job includes but not limited to some terrible and insanely boring gig at the boardwalk in the summer. Well unfortunately my 16 year old self, the recession was in full swing, and the jobs boring kids like me would take, instead were filled up with adults who were recently laid off of their jobs and needed something just to keep a house over their heads.
So at this point, I was with my best friend growing up Kegan (who originally helped me found Chop Dawg but separated from the business about a year later) and decided to use my website design talents from being nerd all my life to help businesses. It was cool. I never expected Chop Dawg to go anywhere, just some part-time summer gig I created myself.
Lets fast forward a little, in about six months, I had so much work I had no idea what to do. Still the old business model, I faced a tough task on either to pick and choose customers or hire on. I decided the latter. Best decision I ever made.
Chop Dawg today is a completely different company though. I won't even consider the pre-2011 era a company, more as a glorified website design freelance gig for me. Chop Dawg today actually works with startups and established companies. For startups, we help take their brilliant ideas and turn them into reality. Most have these awesome ideas but lack the technical knowledge on how to make it happen. So what happens is they come to us, and instead of them having to give out a ton of equity and hundreds of thousands of dollars on a team, they come to us, at a fraction of the costs, without giving up any equity, and we do every aspect of their product. We build the apps, we build the websites, we create the branding, the marketing strategy, the online presence. It is a perfect marriage of services we provide to help our customers. The end result? Beautiful products, beautiful companies, beautiful online presences and now these entrepreneurs can market themselves and run their companies. When they need extra assistance, extra ideas, extra features, we help them out. It is that simply. We act sort of like a design firm meetings incubator. It is the coolest thing ever. For established companies, we will do the same thing, but instead of creating things from scratch, we are usually doing rebrands, updating products, destroying their existing online presence and marketing strategy to make them better than ever before. It works brilliantly.
What benefits do you think you get in the "real world" having stated in the business so early?
I have a whole new perspective on what success is and how to tackle problems. I feel that in school, they train kids to believe that in the real world, finding an answer is as simple as choosing A, B, C, or D when in reality, that is not the case. I am not saying anything is wrong with an education system, because we so desperately need it as a society, but it doesn't prepare for real world scenarios. I thin the fact I learned the hard way on so much stuff at such a young age helped mold my brain a bit better than an older-folk going through the same thing. Being this young, my brain is still impressionable, you know?
And yeah, perspective on what success is. Success to me isn't being wealthy. I have never cared about money, in fact I like to look at money like points in a game. Just keeping score. To me, success is building a product or service that impact lives in a positive way, changes the way people do things, make lives easier. Solving real problems. I want to change the world, right now I am by helping some of the most imaginative and brilliant startups become reality. Some of the ideas we get, are just so breathtakingly awesome that you wish it already existed. And the fact we can help these inspiring entrepreneurs turn these ideas into reality... it just does not get any cooler than that. Now we are moving onto my second company (a product) and starting a networking event in Philly... I am trying to tackle much more issues and help more people.
What does your workspace look like?
Hah, perfect timing to ask me this question! It is important to note prior to me discussing about my personal workspace, with what I do I am constantly on the go. I am typically working out of coffee shops, on my cellular device, on couches at friends houses, those sort of environments. As for my personal workspace, I am currently renovating it with a friend of mine. When it is all said and done (should be within the next three weeks) it is going to be incredible. I am big minimalistic fan when it comes to interior design. I am trying to make my workspace reflect that. I am going for offset white walls with a perfectly white trim (just finished this) on a cherry-wood looking floor. I still have some things to do but gam plan is to hang on my walls a giant whiteboard (so excited on this one by the way) and three minimalistic posters of my three favorite movies/shows ever (Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Dark Knight, Arrested Development).
The coolest thing when it is all done is my new custom desk. I am building custom lighting which will work on its own switch separate from the lights on the roof. Because I am huge nighttime guy (or early morning guy if you look at it this way), I wanted to create a special way where I can work and see without causing my eyes to explode with light in them at 4:00am. Hopefully my idea becomes reality. Also have some small things already purchased. I sleep on a comfortable futon (I do sleep in my workspace), I have this incredibly mini-fridge that my team bought me for Christmas (love those guys) and was given as a birthday present a Keurig coffee machine. Only other thing is my speaker system. I love listening to music when I work, so I recently bought myself a huge 540-watt Sony speaker system. Stay posted to my Twitter, I am sure that I will be tweeting photographs once it is all done.
(Off topic a bit -- recently since I literally have no room to sleep I have been crashing at friends homes like a homeless person. It is fun being able to use their internet for free and act as a vacuum for their refrigerator. Haha! In really though, I have some awesome friends who are supportive of my business and help me out in little situations such as this when I need a place to work. I won't be anywhere without them and my team).
If you could talk to your ninth grade self what would you say to him?
I'd tell him to take as many real-world classes as possible and to keep working out.
I realize in hind-sight how much easier my life could had been this past two-three years if I took some basic accounting classes and took harder math classes. I know what some of you may be thinking, harder math? Well it isn't necessarily for the math itself, it is the fact learning math helps your brain basically process information faster. It changes the way your brain processes information, making it faster, more efficient, and better at solving all problems. It is kind of like why you life weights to prepare yourself for a sport. Same type of situation here. By learning more math, you're forcing your brain to create new and better neural connections/pathways, whatever you want to call it.
For working out, I was in shape for a 9th grader. I wrestled, pretended like I could lift, that sort of thing. But I haven't really done much in five years, and I can fell it now. I have gained about fifty pounds, I am not as alert and energetic, but I have been changing that. I started two months ago running again, eating healthier, trying to sleep a bit better... I have already lost 25 pounds. But I can tell this could had all been avoided if I cared about myself earlier... plus it does reflect me on a business level. The more alert and energetic I am, the better I can do the tasks I need to do. Don't forget as well, your appearance, though people should never judge a book by its cover, does make a first impression to nearly any new relationship. Caring about how you look a bit, how you dress, these things make it easier to impress the people you need to impress.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Man, I wish I could share EVERYTHING! Unfortunately, some things I need to keep hush-hush till plans are finalized. Here is what I can share for the immediate future. We have great ideas in store for Chop Dawg. Our goal is to help over 50 new startups this year in making their dreams into reality. We are in the middle of completely rebranding ourselves, the way we present ourselves, tweaking the way our internal operations work, to ensure that we are as ideal for our target audience as possible. We are also spending alot of time, effort, and money into our customer service & support. Our goal is to know that not only are we giving our customers the best products possible, but that we are also giving them the best possible experience and having a brand that reflects all of this. We want our customers to be proud to have worked with us, as we are proud to have worked with them.
Another awesome thing we are planning for 2013 is this incredible networking event(s) in Philadelphia. No clue on dates, locations, keynote speakers, any of that yet. We don't even have a finalized name. We have been planning all of this though for a little over a month now, shooting to have our first event by Q3 of this year!
Lastly, I am launching my second company, which unlike Chop Dawg, is completely product based, not service. I will say this much, it is completely bootstrapped by myself. No outside funding. My incredible team for this has already been assembled. We even have a functional prototype. But, this is still months of development and work before I can even begin releasing hints into the market we want to hit about what this is. I can make this promise though, we are hoping to change the way that people use the web. We are so excited. I wish I could spill the beans about this now. You have no idea. :)
Thanks for having me! Rock on in 2013.