Create, Innovate, and Introduce
Wake up, shower, put on your suit, drive to work, clock in at 9, clock out at 5, rinse, wash, repeat Monday thru Friday.
If this sounds ideal—this interview may not be for you.
I was fortunate to speak to Jon Wheatley, a member of Generation Startup. Him and his team at Need/Want do not live the ordinary life or work the ordinary job; they look to create, innovate, and introduce products and applications to the world that may make our lives easier or just may make it more fun.
He is originally from the south coast of England, but now resides in St. Louis as the co-founder of Need/Want Inc. He began his path towards Need/Want in 2013 when he met his soon to be co-founder, Marshall Haas, via twitter, and soon after they successfully launched SmartBedding. Later that same year, they decided to get a little more serious and launch a platform for building many startups; Need/Want is born.
Below are highlights of our conversation.
Can you tell us about your backgrounds and how Need/Want came together?
Marshall and I met over twitter originally. He reached out to give me some feedback his Peel case that he had ordered and we instantly hit it off. At the time he was working on Smart Bedding and I loved the idea. We decided to partner up and work on it together.
Whilst we were working together on Smart Bedding we had the idea for what became Mod Notebooks. Shortly after that we decided to spin up a company around the projects we were working on. That company became Need/Want.
David joined officially about a year in but he was involved from the start. I’ve known David for over 10 years and we’ve worked on countless projects together over the years. We all work very well together!
At what point did you become interested in tech and the startup industry?
I first became interested in tech when I was very young. Probably around 4 or 5 years old. My dad dabbled a bit with hardware engineering so there were always bits of old computers and circuit boards lying around the house. I was always obsessed with watching him do anything on his computer. I just found it fascinating.
The fascination didn’t go away. I eventually saved up enough money to buy my own computer and started messing around on the Internet.
I started making websites just for fun to show my friends at school. This quickly became an obsession. Making things that other people used and enjoyed was so rewarding!
Who is/was your inspiration in the field? How do their experiences contribute to who you want to be?
I’m inspired by lots of people. A few people that come to mind are:
Andrew Mason – I love his no bullshit attitude. In an industry where most CEO’s sprout the same old boring PR speaks it’s very refreshing to listen to someone talk candidly.
Larry/Sergey – They have built a company that is doing so much good. It’s hard not to be inspired by people like them.
Brandon Sanderson – I read a lot of Sci-Fi / Fantasy novels. I find that it’s a great way of getting inspiration and ideas. Brandon Sanderson is a machine that keeps pumping out amazing work.
What is your driving passion with Need/ Want? What makes it as awesome as it is?
I LOVE that the Need/Want model gives us the freedom to do pretty much anything we want. We’re not tied to one idea or one industry. If we have an idea for some crazy thing we think has a chance of working… we have the freedom to try it. It’s a blast working in an environment like that.
Can you tell about the decision to be headquartered in St. Louis? What does this city offer? Advantages? Disadvantages?
Sure. This is something we’ve actually written a lot about on our blog.
When you Need/Want started I was based in San Francisco and Marshall was based in Saint Louis. We weighed up the pros and cons of each city and Saint Louis won.
At the time we were planning on bootstrapping Need/Want and due to the insanely high cost of living it made very little sense to base everything there. Saint Louis relative to San Francisco is quite inexpensive which makes starting a company MUCH easier. You automatically have a much lower burn if you’ve living in a cheap city. Also, we’re an Internet company so really we could be based anywhere.
What challenges have you faced in your field and how have you overcome them to be successful?
Countless challenges. The best (and probably most cliché) advice I could give here is to just never give up. Failure is okay really should be embraced. We learn the most when we fail. As long as you don’t take it personally and start working on something new (armed with everything you learned from your failure!) you’ll do okay.
We believe something magical happens when you keep the band together for the long haul. We’re creating many products that solve simple problems. Why? We’re creative people by nature who thrive by constantly building.
From your experience, where is the tech industry headed in the next 5-10 years? Do you see any trends?
I’m excited about self-driving cars. In 20 years we’ll look back and remember the time when everyone used to manually drive around these massive metal death machines called cars and think we were absolutely insane.
Virtual reality is exciting too. At some point it will get so good that maybe travel will become redundant. It’s nice to know that as I grow old and decrepit I’ll be able to live out wild and interesting experiences through VR.
What role does tech play in social progress? Where do you see opportunity for society to hone technology when confronting major obstacles?
Tech plays a huge role in social progress and I think it’s only going to increase. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter give people from all walks of life from all over the world a voice. Lots of people who were previously sheltered culturally or geographically now have access to all of the worlds information at their fingertips.
What advice do you offer to newcomers to the tech and startup scene?
Jump in, get started and build something. Make mistakes and embrace failure.