Blast Buzz Interview with Co-Founders Kerstin Karu and Mark Chen
The idea of paid endorsements isn’t new, but the concept of connecting everyday people with companies seeking social media endorsement is a new twist. If you thought sponsored tweets were just for the Kardashians... think again. The founders of Blast Buzz (or Blast for short) are trying to reengineer the way everyday people and businesses link up to promote content. They’re putting the power of paid advertising opportunities into the hands of the masses.
Founders Kerstin Karu, Mark Chen, John Chen and Michael Wang met up through a hackathon event in San Francisco last fall. It’s hard to believe that less than a year after that meeting, these four diverse entrepreneurs would be launching Blast Buzz: yet, here they are with their app launched and their business hitting the ground running.
I met up with two of the Blast Buzz co-founders, Kerstin and Mark, to talk more about what led to the app, how it works and what other entrepreneurs could learn from their experience launching.
“It’s about matching everyone,” co-founder and CEO Kerstin explained, “We want to connect everyday people and companies to create street marketing through Facebook and Twitter.”
That matching happens when everyday people download the app, create their profile and then search for marketing opportunities. Those paid marketing opportunities come when companies log on to the Blast Buzz app and create the kinds of marketing messages they need, including any tags, branding and photos to include, then release the endorsement into the Blast Buzz dashboard where the everyday users can find, suggest (pending approval by the issuing company) and release their endorsement through social media from their own social account. It’s like a tweet from a celebrity, only now you’re the celebrity giving the endorsement.
It’s a cool concept, but what’s even cooler is how fast it all came together.
“We all met in November of 2013,” Kerstin says. I have to ask her again if I heard that date correctly, since that’s only seven months ago! She and co-founder Mark Chen, Blast’s Chief Technology Officer, both laugh.
“Yes,” Kerstin repeats, “we were working on a different idea but then when we met, we realized the idea for Blast Buzz was the right one .”
It’s amazing what the right team and the right idea can accomplish.
Which would be part of Kerstin’s advice to other entrepreneurs. “Fail and fail again until you succeed,” she says. “Let your ideas change and evolve until they become the right one.”
Mark explains his advice would be to work with the right people, like his co-founders. Given his long engineering experience and his ten-year history at Cisco, he and the other engineer co-founders John and Michael found a great compliment to their professional skills when they met Kerstin.
“She’s got a lot of drive,” Mark cheerfully chimes in. He goes on to tell a story about the first time they pitched to their investor of Blast Buzz, Tim Draper. “Tim was holding this event for his current investors and Kerstin walks up to him and says she would like us to attend, too. Tim asks her why she and the team should be allowed to attend when they aren’t his investees. She quickly replies, ‘Well we could be!’ It was great.”
Sometimes it takes that little extra push to get where you need to be as an entrepreneur and in this case, it worked out for the Blast Buzz team. Tim was impressed with their initiative and told them they could attend. The only problem? The event was the following day! To pitch their idea they were going to need to get ready literally overnight. Kinkos couldn’t make overnight flyers for their booth, but that didn’t stop the team. The co-founding engineer team was able to make a working demo overnight and Kerstin was able to create flyers in photo editing software and took them to Costco to be printed with their one-hour film development service. Together they were able to present and pitch at Tim’s event, ultimately landing Tim himself as an investor.
“Sometimes you just have to be a little bit of a crazy optimist,” Kerstin laughs as John tells their story, “You just have to be creative and confident.”
Be creative, confident and a crazy optimist: that’s good advice for any entrepreneur.