Solving for the First Penny

Recently I was able to chat with IMVU CEO and entrepreneur Brett Durrett. Durrett is not your typical CEO; Durrett is a rockstar that can program video games. In fact, he was programming video games for companies before he was of legal age to sign a contract.

Today, Durrett is the dynamic leader of IMVU, the world’s leading 3D social network with over 130 million registrants and the world’s largest user-generated catalog of virtual goods with over 16 million items. Durrett is in great company, as Eric Ries (Lean Startup author) co-founded IMVU and is currently serving as a board observer.

Here are 6 critical items I learned from Durrett:

1. Solve for the First Penny

What’s the top piece of advice you give to entrepreneurs? Solving for the first penny is really hard. Many think about solving problems that aren’t really problems for people. They solve for things that won’t make a difference if they aren’t around in six months. Don’t make the mistake of trying to solve the two-year problems before solving the problems that exist in the next six months.

2. Stick with It

What’s Been Your Secret Sauce for Personal Success? Sticking with it. It’s far from easy starting a company and it is often too easy to quit. You need to stick with it. Being focused is key. Also, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been lucky to work with great people. Success doesn’t happen alone.

3. Fail Fast: Go for Large Disruptive Pivots

Biggest failure and what did you learn? It’s hard to pick and not be biased by the most recent failures, which still have more sting than the older ones. One that comes to mind is my transition to CEO at IMVU. I was initially an interim CEO and then became CEO, so I had a very gradual transition. As a result, things I wanted to change at the company followed that gradual transition rather than a large, definitive pivot. In hindsight, missing a great opportunity to make a lot of big changes all at once slowed down progress. I believe it would have been better to have disruptive (and probably painful) changes all at once.

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4. People Meet & Marry via Avatars

What’s the mission of IMVU? Our mission is to allow people to meet through 3D avatars in a very easy and safe way. We allow people to reveal themselves on their own terms. Often our platform allows our users to relay their emotions when they might struggle to do the same thing in the offline world. Many of our members have gotten married after meeting in one of our virtual rooms. Ironically, they are meeting the “real me” through my avatar.

5. Avatars Save Lives

If IMVU went away tomorrow, what’s the loss to society? Some of our members are there for pure fun. Others want to meet new people in a stress free environment. We also over index with the LGBT community.

Often IMVU is a place for people to express their true self when their local community won’t be accepting. Many of our members feel they can’t be the “real me” in their offline community as they might get assaulted in real life. Our platform also allows for our creators to make a living. Customers create all of our content and items. Some of our customers are able to make a living purely on what they sell on IMVU. Most of the items are long-tail items: Asian facial look, hot dog characters, humanoids, and more. Our top sellers are always body customizations.

6. Mobile is the Future of Virtual Worlds

What has you the most excited right now? We are launching several new products in 2015 designed around rebuilding our product from being primarily PC Client and adapting for the mobile revolution. This will allow us to better customize avatars for everyone and also help our customers continue to build and add to our 20 million virtual goods.

3 People Durrett Follows in the Business World:

  • Ben Horowitz: co-founder the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz | @bhorowitz
  • Jason Cohen: founder WP Engine | @asmartbear
  • Fred Wilson: blogger and co-founder of Union Square Ventures | @fredwilson

Word Association with IMVU CEO Brett Durrett

  1. Iron Man or Spiderman? Ironman
  2. Beach or Snow? Beach
  3. Android or Apple? Android
  4. Reagan or Kennedy? Kennedy
  5. Steak or Sushi? Both
  6. Stallone or Schwarzenegger? Schwarzenegger
  7. Jack Welsh or Steve Jobs? Jobs
  8. Private or Open: Open

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About the Author: Erik Qualman

Often called a Digital Dale Carnegie and The Tony Robbins of Tech, Erik Qualman is a #1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Keynote Speaker that has spoken in 49 countries.

His Socialnomics work has been featured on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling. Qualman is a sitting professor at Harvard & MIT's edX labs.

His latest book What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube is a Pulitzer Prize nominated work.
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