Brian Shimmerlik is the CEO and founder of Vengo. Founded in 2012, Vengo is a software and media company that engages consumers and collects data by combining interactive digital media with point-of-purchase. Selected from 270 companies as "NYC Next Idea 2012," Vengo's next-generation vending machines enable brands such as Trident, Snapple, Dentyne and Sour Patch Kids to re-engage consumers while generating attractive unit economics. Read on to hear Brian's perspective on an average day in his life:
I think I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was the kid at the end of the street slanging lemonade, flowers, or candy. I actually had a small candy ring in 6th grade, which is funny because my job now is basically just selling candy.
Before all of this, I got caught up thinking I had to go down a traditional route. Even though I started a tiny startup in college, I ended up going to JP Morgan and spent 6 years in finance. I completely and utterly hated my life. I’m so disappointed in myself that I let it go that long. I saw business school as the chance to really find what I want, and would be able to start businesses with lower risks.
If you’re not trying to start businesses in college, it's a huge waste of time because you learn so much. There is no down side and there’s only upside. Worst-case scenario is you’re positioning yourself to get a better job when you graduate. I started at Stern, and I came up with the idea that every taxi must have a vending machine.
It kept me up at night and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I entered the “NYC Next Idea” competition and received $17, 000. After that we assembled a team and built a prototype that barely worked. We 3D printed the insides, had a friend build the shell, and hacked an iPad, but it was enough to show this was our plan going forward.
It was crazy but we ended up raising a million dollar seed round. NYU was the core to us connecting with our first investors. We then moved to our Long Island City office, and built our second-generation product. We made a pivot away from taxis and emphasized brick and mortar locations like bars.
We then raised a two million dollar Series A, got to expand the team a little bit, and now we are building two-hundred and fifty next generation machines. The funny thing was, this is one of those innovations in plain sight.
This is Brian’s day-in-the-life:
8:00-9:30am: Wake up, grab a massive ice coffee (half & half, no sugar), and start checking my backlogged emails even though there were zero when I went to bed. Emails typically range from problems in the field to people in Saudi Arabia who want a taxi vending machine.
9:30-10:30am: The team starts our standing meeting, and that helps us keep it to ten minutes or less. In terms of hardware devices, everyone’s work has to be fully integrated so communication is super essential. Everyone has their own expertise and we need to be always bouncing ideas off one another.
10:30-11:30am: I put my sales hat on at this point, and feel “sales / partnerships” is my core role. I’m usually connecting with brands that could work with us, and showing them our live demo.
11:30am-12:30pm: I like to explore new territories. Right now we are doing a lot of payments research, and that requires expert knowledge. That leads me to searching for mentors for guidance on this research. Those mentors are people I’ve met that are further along the entrepreneurial path.
I found that asking for feedback all the time wasn’t working because I would spend most of the time catching people up on the problem. So, now I only ask questions that are very specific. Also, if you do it too often and ask too many people you are getting totally different responses that might end up getting confusing.
12:30-1:30pm: I want to eat as much as possible. I usually go for a big sandwich, or the Thai food cart outside the office.
1:30pm-3:30pm: At this time I focus on project management. This is planning how to scale the business.
We do a really good job of triage, and that’s essential to project management. It’s all about finding the most effective way to allocate our time, and ignore things that are unimportant. We really have a team culture because we really like getting everyone’s opinion on things. I like leading as part of the team and not from above.
3:30-5:30pm: Meeting the data team to review metrics, and crowd sourced product suggestions.
Someone the other day asked for “booty lube.” We look at the data as a tool to optimize the machine, the revenue, and the consumer experience. One of the really interesting things was that some people very addictive personalities. Generally the machines will be apart of the community of a space. So some people will order four Twix in one day, and that is so hard to imagine but some people get hooked on the products.
5:30-7:00pm: This is where we make sure all the machines are restocked and ready to go out. I try not to eat the candy. I have a strict policy of not getting high on your own supply, but there are some team members that have a weakness there.
7:00-9:00pm: Eat dinner which is usually Chicken Parm from Tony DiNapoli’s. Watch Netflix and kick back. Right now I’m watching Freaks and Geeks. I also like weird independent movies, the weirder the better.
Some people might keep on the news, but I competently ignore the world outside of my family and Vengo. In finance, I spent 15 minutes an hour just reading the news, and I didn't feel like it added that much value to my life. My job right now is just to focus all my energy on moving the company along or trying to relax so I can more effectively work. I’m either pleasure or profit.
9:00-10:30pm: Before I go to bed I like to make my inbox zero. This is mostly just to make sure I’m as accessible as possible, and our clients feel they are always in touch.