Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Brian Garr, Chief Product Officer of Puretalk.ai located in Boynton Beach, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
LinguaSys was formed in 2010 by myself and two associates, one from Germany and one from Australia. We started as a Machine Translation company, and our early successes were AMEX, HSBC, Marriott, and Fidelity. We soon discovered that the first half of an MT engine was a full-blown text analytics engine that could be used for sentiment analysis and even for Q&A systems. We eventually pivoted and focused on text analytics while still maintaining our MT clients.
Tell us about yourself
I come from an eclectic background. My college degree is in Theater, and I did some acting (poorly) after college and property management before I fell into computers based on a client's needs. That led me to a job at an MT company called Globalink that we eventually sold to Lernout and Hauspie in '98. IBM hired me to help with their new Speech group and to start an MT business for IBM. Stayed with them for a decade before I got caught in a large RIF in 2009. I really wanted to stay in the speech and MT spaces, and to do that, I ended up finding a brilliant technologist in Australia who had already written a great MT engine, and we turned it into LinguaSys officially in 2010.
I have always been motivated by solving hard problems and creating, marketing, and selling speeches, and MT was always a difficult proposition since their accuracy was always suspect but useful in the proper use cases. I'm also motivated by the enormous amount of originality in the tech industry, and I can't wait to see what's invented next and how it can be leveraged.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I've been told that raising money should not be considered an accomplishment, but I consider the list of my investors for LinguaSys to be a huge accomplishment because they validated my vision and my early successes. I also felt a huge amount of accomplishment knowing that I had enough revenue to support my employees. Being an employer is a serious thing, and being able to treat them well was important to me.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Well, first, there are the hours. It's a 24x7x365 proposition when running a startup. There are no vacations and no off hours. You are on call all the time, and you are worried about your clients and your employees all the time. I suppose the next hardest thing is having to let people go when business invariably slows for periods, sometimes outside of your control.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Communicate constantly with your employees, investors, and clients. It takes a village.
- Concentrate on your core competencies. There are lots of shiny objects out there that want to vie for your attention. Stay focused. It's ok and natural to pivot but do so with total knowledge and buy-in from your investors and employees.
- Grab sleep wherever you can. There will be a huge demand for your time, and the hours are long, but if you fail to get sufficient sleep, you're damaging yourself as well as your chances of success.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Get out there and talk to as many people as you can about your vision. Go to conferences and get speaking gigs if you can. Present yourself with confidence and back it up with technology that is second to none.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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