I talk with David Murray from Bravo’s Silicon Valley Start-ups about the show, entrepreneurship, GoalSponsors and spray tans.
You can listen to the interview using the embedded SoundCloud player, or read the full transcript below.
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Peach: Hi Everyone, this is Peach Pellen and I’m talking with David Murray – the founder of GoalSponsors and one of the stars of the TV show “Silicon Valley Start-ups”. David, thank you for being with us!
David: How are you?
Peach: Very good, thank you. I’d really like to start, for people who don’t know, would you like to tell us a little bit about GoalSponsors?
David: Sure. So, GoalSponsors is an app, it’s a mobile app, that is used with personal goals like weight loss and physical fitness. We match people with accountability buddies, so if you’re trying to quit smoking somebody to help you quit smoking, if you’re trying to lose 30 pounds somebody to help you do that, like a personal trainer. Then we have a platform that allows you to check in daily to be held accountable, and yo have 24/7 access to support from you sponsor via text, sms, email – you can take a picture of your weight every day so that your sponsor can make sure that you’re actually using the weight you say you are – and graphs your weight and other typical goal setting weight loss type features.
Peach: Would you say that the main focus of GoalSponsors is on health and fitness related goals or does it go beyond that?
David: It definitely goes beyond that, but that said our main focus really is on health and fitness goals. We are kind of focussing on one area to try and nail it, so in that respect I’d say probably 90% of the people on our platform us GoalSponsors for weight loss goals. That said the other 10% is filled with everything from quitting smoking to shopping shoplifting to having a better marriage – there’s all sorts of different goals on our platform.
Peach: That’s excellent… what actually inspired you to start GoalSponsors?
David: So, this is kind of a personal thing for me actually – I used to be a much heavier guy, I’m about 5’8 and I used to weight 205 lbs and as of today I’ve lost between 40 and 45 lbs, you know it’s Turkey season so it’s hard not to gain back a couple but that weightless journey has been something I want to help other people achieve. It’s hard work and having support is one of the most powerful things a person can have in their arsenal to achieve a goal like weightless.
Peach: Hmmm. Well, we got to see you in the first episode of Silicon Valley Start-ups, you were looking quite fit, I must say!
David: (laughs) Thank you!
Peach: It was unexpected, I’m sitting there thinking, yeah, I’ll check out the show and then – oh, hello there!
David: Yeah I was kind of scantily clad on the first episode for sure, it was kind of getting all the embarrassing things out of the way first. The truth is I never would have had the guts to take off my shirt on national TV a few years ago and it’s really only because of my weightless that I’ve had confidence.
Peach: As I recall it was the shirt and the pants – so, good for you!
David: (laughs) Well yes, that is true – thank you.
Peach: So uh, keeping on track, what sort of goals and visions long term do you have for GoalSponsors?
David: Right now we’re really focussed purely on growth. We want to get more active users, more engaged users – we have a pretty a large number of sponsors. Actually our ratio of sponsors to clients is almost between 1 – 2 to 1 – 3, so there are a lot of sponsors on our platform. We are interested in helping to grow the app, helping to add more features to make it more useful and helpful for people. So adding things for example like a food diary, being able to send pictures of your food to your sponsor, being able to integrate with things like FitBit to make sure that we’re tracking all the exercise components – so the idea is you don’t have to actually communicate with sponsor directly to be able to have your sponsor know what’s going on, making sure that you have that daily connection somehow, whether be it automatic or manual is something we think is important to helping people to be held accountable and therefore achieve their personal goal.
Peach: In this industry people do tend to throw around the word innovative but what you’re doing actually sounds very innovative and very, very cool!
David: Thank you!
Peach: So, what tools are you using to build your product and why are you using those particular tools?
Peach: That’s great. Have you run into any challenges using a third party SDK rather than going native?
David: Yeah, you know it’s definitely been a learning experience in that regard, I think any third party SDK has its downsides because it will lag behind the bleeding edge of whatever it’s built on so when Apple comes out with its latest iOS 6.X, you know, it takes a little bit of time for Appcelerator to integrate some of those features. Outisde of that it has been more of a bonus than anything else because I’ve had the support of Appcelerator to build my apps so when I hit roadblocks I’m able to reach out to them and honestly they’ve been incredibly helpful giving feedback and support and I think I’d find a lot of trouble if I were trying to that support directly from Apple.
Peach: (laughs) Definitely. How long have you been programming?
David: I’ve been programming since the beginning of college so well over, I’d say, I guess 11 years.
David: I’m reflecting on it now! (laughs) I’m like, “Oh gosh, has it been that long?!”
Peach: Haha. Uhm – what language did you start with?
David: (laughs) I don’t know, maybe, I guess just multi-interested.
Peach: I’m going to steal that term to use later! So, ah, one question, a little random, but I like to ask people this – how much fun are you having doing this?
David: I think it’s a good question to ask because, gosh, it’s been a real roller coaster, there are days when I have a lot of fun where I go in, I get my coffee or my tea, I have a little snack, I’m just like fixing bugs and I feel like good, and talking with customers and the world is just super great and I have goosebumps and everything is awesome; I actually had one of those days like a week ago and I was so excited – yesterday however it was almost exactly the opposite, I didn’t want to get out of bed, I felt like really down on myself and honestly a lot of it is driven by the numbers I’m seeing with the app. So on some days you’ll see a lot of people using it and boasting that they have weight loss of over 10 pounds within a 2 week period, like really, really awesome numbers but then you’ll come back again a couple days later and you’ll get like five people writing in customer support a new bug that you may have introduced, or somebody is having a problem with one of their sponsors because they’re not following through the way that they should. There’s always something to be happy about and there’s always something to be unhappy about. The challenge I think is choosing to focus on the positives and the things that are going we’ll because you’re always going to have things aren’t going well at the same time as you’re having things that are.
Peach: Definitely – a very good view point to take, because you’re a one man team, right?
David: Yeah, hah, which is hard, it’s very hard but it’s rewarding.
Peach: Yeah, well, so you have to deal with the actual coding side, the design side and the customer service side – that’s a lot of responsibility.
David: It is a lot of responsibility and you know, it’s interesting because in some ways, at least where I am right now, it’s really really great because I get immediate feedback from the customers so I know exactly what I need to change, the downside is I need to seek feedback externally so I need to reach out to my customers or other people to get feedback on what I’m doing. So there are pros and cons and to be totally honest if I were going to do this whole thing over from scratch I think I probably would start with a cofounder from the beginning, because it can be really hard when you hit those road bumps and you feel really down on yourself; it can be really, really hard to keep going but so far I’ve done it, haha.
Peach: This is obviously a somewhat subjective question but how long would you say that you’ve been an entrepreneur?
David: So, I’ve been an entrepreneur on and off for about 5 years. I say “on and off” because I’ve had side businesses while I’ve been working full time, and I actually have never in any past business or my current business sought funding – I’ve been trying to bootstrap and it’s funny because it’s a common kind of expectation in Silicon Valley that to be taken seriously you kind of need to get other people’s money to run your business and I have been doing my best to try and not do that. A, because I have more control without getting funding and B because I want to see that I can do it. I want to see that I can start something from scratch and I can build it into something big, without that help. That said if push comes to shove and I really see no alternative then I may end up seeking funding but as of today I’m not – but things could change at any time.
Peach: I think that’s a very admirable goal.
David: (laughs) thank you.
Peach: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs?
David: Well, as I’ve said before I think that finding a cofounder is important and so that’s a piece of advice that although I have chosen not to take it I think, I definite wish that I had, so that’s a big one. Having fun as you mentioned is important because if you’re spending more of your time doing this, which you will be as an entrepreneur, you want to make sure that you’re happy during that time and you know in a lot of ways I kind of consider life to be one big optimisation problem around happiness – trying to maximise your own happiness and the happiness of other people and if you’re not having fun while you’re building something it doesn’t matter how much money you make, it’s not going to be worth it. Connection with others is really important so you know when you’re doing something by yourself you’re going to need to seek that feedback and to be honest one of the most important things is to why you’re doing it. If you’re doing it for somebody else or if you’re doing it because that’s what you think you should be doing then you’re going to burn out. Also if you’re doing something because you think it’s the right thing to do but it’s not something you’re excited about, the reality is not all of us are Mother Theresa so you know, if you don’t want to do something that’s a non-profit for example, that’s OK, but it needs to be something that you’re excited about, that resonates for you, and it can be anything – but you need to have it resonate for you – I think that’s probably the biggest piece of advice I can offer.
Peach: I think that’s excellent advice.
David: Thank you.
Peach: OK, so, I don’t have a lot of questions about the TV show, Silicon Valley: Start-Ups, but since I have you I do have a couple of questions I’d like to ask-
Peach: – Starting with, how did you get involved with the show?
David: I have made a bucket list for myself and one of the things I put on there was to star in a reality show. At the time I thought it was kind of ridiculous and silly and I didn’t think I would ever do it but I’ve always been a fan of reality TV and in particular Bravo and it was kind of something I put on my bucket list on a whim. So one day I was on my Facebook and a friend of mine posted on my Facebook wall that they were casting for this show and I honestly didn’t have any expectations, I didn’t know anybody on the inside, I just did a email to the casting group and went from there and made it up the auctions ranks and eventually got cast, so it was a lot of luck!
Peach: A lot of good things are – but congratulations on that!
David: Thank you.
Peach: So uh, how true to life would you say the show is?
David: I would say that the parts that I’m a part of are true to my life, and that’s really all that I can speak to. There are definitely people that think that the show is scripted and all I can say to that is that you can’t script most of the stuff that happens! The show is not scripted at all. But what I do think happens sometimes when cameras come on is that some folks create expectations within themselves to be a certain way or act a certain way and I find that cameras can influence how a person behaves. But, never was I asked to do anything, outside of like talking with people or showing up to something – I’ve never been asked to drink, I’ve never been asked to spray tan or anything like that from producers – it’s all been the other cast members of the show that have created what the show’s become.
Peach: I was going to ask about the spray tan so good to know.
David: (laughs) Yeah, you know it’s not something I’ll probably do, well, I mean, never say never – I might have a big event or something it makes sense to do it for but it’s not something I think I would do on a regular basis.
Peach: Hah. I haven’t had one in years, I had one once in high school, that stuff gets on everything – ugh.
David: It definitely does – don’t let it dry, that’s the end of it!
Peach: Terrible… So, what have you learned from the experience, being on the show, specifically?
David: Well I’ve learned a lot about reality TV and how it works and I’ve been pleasantly surprised in that regard, about how much they really try to keep things as real as possible. I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that I can survive haters. I can survive people saying mean things. Not necessarily about me in particular actually, that’s pretty minimal, but about the show as a whole there’s been a lot of folks saying this is bad for entrepreneurship or it’s not a good representation of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley – and I think some of those arguments, there are merits to aspects of them, but what I do find is that folks that actually watch the whole show and don’t just read other articles that people post about the show then post another article that just says the same thing. Those that actually do watch the show will find that there is actually a very strong amount of representation of actual business and the drama of the actual struggle that is entailed in them. So you know, I’ve been able to look on Twitter and look on Facebook and look on various platforms and see some pretty nasty things that have been said and I’ve been able to go to work and get my stuff done to continue to make GoalSponsors as successful as it has been so far and stay the course. So for me, I didn’t think that I could be that strong, I’ve always considered myself to be a really sensitive guy so I thought it might eat me from the inside out – at one point I was thinking of not doing the show as a result but in the end I’m very happy that I did it, something that has been on my bucket list for years. I’m legitimately working on a real start-up everyday, even right now I’m looking at my growth chart and thinking about how I can improve it. So this is my real life, and I can’t speak for any other cast members on the show, I can’t speak for anyone else but myself but this is my life.
Peach: I did like that we actually got to see you briefly writing code in the show, I haven’t watched all of it yet but I did like taking a look that we actually got to see you doing that – I thought that was very cool.
David: Well you know there’s actually a drinking game on CNN that said if anybody ever writes any code that you should drink a whole bottle, and I would say if people watch the show the whole way through they’ll be well, they’ll probably be dead. there’s going to be way too much alcohol drinking if that’s the case because you know, I’m coding every day, so it’s almost impossible not to get- some shots of that while filming a reality show.
Peach: I expected you to say it’s almost impossible not to get drunk- hah.
David: (laughs) Well it’s definitely almost impossible not to get drunk, the truth is if you look at every single shot and every single second of footage that you take you will probably find that every single episode has at least 3 or 4 shots of somebody coding. Very briefly, you know, whether it be me or Dwight – but you’ll definitely see it, so if you have to drink a whole bottle for each one of those, I don’t know but if you can handle 4 bottles of alcohol within an hour period then maybe you’ll survive, haha.
Peach: I guess it depends if we’re talking about spirits or beer.
David: That’s a good point, I guess I kind of wish we were talking about the former! I guess if it’s the latter it’s as big of a deal.
Peach: I am Australian, we have a very high tolerance thankfully, because I might have to try that game when I check out the rest of the show!
David: Just have the stomach pump ready!
Peach: (laughs) So – how can people find you, get in touch with you, I mean your Twitter, any information you want to share, you share there?
David: So I’m actually incredibly available, you can ask me on Twitter, you can also go to my website, it’s my full name, http://DavidIsaacMurray.com, my middle name is Issac – and there’s an email address at the bottom, that goes directly to me – I ran an experiment with the show and decided not to hide any of my personal tidbits when going on the air and I’ve been getting random emails from people and it’s surprising, I haven’t got any scary stalkers, I’ve mostly just gotten really supportive people saying really nice things, so I’m keeping my email address public and all of that so anyone can write me at any time.
Peach: That’s fantastic. So, what about your Twitter?
David: Yeah, so, my Twitter is my first name, middle initial, last name – davidimurray – and I tweet a lot.
Peach: Underneath the interview I will be putting links to all of that so people will be able to find it easily and I will put a link to GoalSponsors obviously. I would encourage people to check that out. I downloaded it earlier, I haven’t had a chance to do a whole bunch with it but looking at it I can say I am very impressed.
David: Thank you very much! I really hope the listeners take a look because you know, being held accountable to your goal is probably one of the easiest ways to make sure you stay motivated.
Peach: I definitely agree with you, I don’t have particular personal weight loss or health goals right now but I know that if I did it would be a very good way to do it. I’ve found that personally when I have a goal it really does help – I can be incredibly, incredibly lazy – I’m very good at finding ways not to do things and procrasti-cleaning and all those things that people do – and having someone actually hold you accountable, I think it’s just excellent, there’s no better way to do that.
Peach: Well, I won’t take up any more of your time but thank you for chatting with me and I hope everyone enjoyed the interview. We wish you the best of luck and I’m sure we’ll all be following you closely.
David: Thank you Peach, it’s been a pleasure.