Ep 19: Solving problems, the tech founder advantage – with Paul McMahon

Paul McMahonIt’s only until recently that I realized that there were only few tech founders among the Japan’s startup community. When you look at most founders’ profile, they very often come from consulting or finance. But tech founders are a rare species around here. I was therefore curious to know what differences it makes for a startup to have a tech person at its head.

To talk about it I was pleased to interview Paul McMahon, the founder of DoorKeeper. If you go to events around Japan, it’s likely that you’ve heard about them. DoorKeeper is a platform to organize events. It helps organizers recruit, manage and grow their community.

Paul is used to go to many events himself. One day he found out that organizers were struggling to manage participants showing up. In fact, the Japanese language makes it even more complicated when you have to look up for the name of the guests. As Paul told me, tech people love solving problems. And so, this is when he started to think about a solution. What was initially a personal challenge became three years later a company.

With Paul, we discuss about the unfair advantage of being a tech founder. What are the pluses but also what are the main skills that he lacks the most in his business. I’m also asking him about the differences that it makes for the company as a whole. Do tech founders manage their organization differently? According to Paul, the engineer mind loves processes and so this is also translated in their management style.

Paul is all about events and community management. He himself hosts the Tokyo Rubyist Meetup, bridging the Japan and international Ruby community. And so it seems that from the start he was destined to create DoorKeeper. Does your idea find you or do you find your idea? That’s another question we’re trying to solve.

Questions: What are the necessary skills when you start a company? How do you find your business idea? (reply in the comments)

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Show notes

  • (2:27) Introduction of Paul
  • (10:35) Presentation of Doorkeeper service
  • (12:37) How to spread your service name
  • (14:21) Differentiation with competitors
  • (16:00) Long term vision
  • (17:12) Starting as a side project
  • (19:45) Was becoming an entrepreneur a plan?
  • (20:45) How important is it to have a killer business idea?
  • (24:25) Criteria for picking a good business idea
  • (27:32) Having a tech background as a founder
  • (32:00) Cannot be an expert at everything
  • (34:05) Why only few tech founders in Japan
  • (36:39) Internal processes
  • (38:34) Getting feedback from users
  • (40:17) Ruby Community
  • (42:36) Quick-fire questions

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