Allan Hoving is an Innovator in Chief. He migrated to the Web from magazine publishing a decade ago and has worked with Google, Microsoft, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, Mediapost, and others. Allan founded PayCheckr.com; TheFrequency.tv; and the PodPoster iPhone app. He holds a Master’s degree in Interactive Communications from Quinnipiac University. Allan has gotten two LLCs and a provisional patent through LegalZoom.
I was strolling up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan one day, about to cross 57th Street to enter the building where I worked at Rolling Stone Magazine. In the crowd coming toward me on the sidewalk, I caught a glimpse of someone I thought was wearing a tie with a camouflage pattern. How cool was that! When the person got closer, I saw that they were instead clutching a camouflage cap to their chest.
Camouflage ties, what a great idea! My first small business was born! Or at least the first one I can remember. I must have had a lemonade stand in front of my house when I was a kid; or maybe I sold baseball cards. But camouflage ties. Now there was a product that could sell!
I printed up business cards on one of those instant machines copy shops had in those days (this was the 1980s). The name of my company: THE IDEA. I took out a classified ad in Rolling Stone, convinced a friend’s fashion-student girlfriend to make up a dozen ties, and was amazed when the envelopes starting arriving in my mailbox stuffed with cash and checks (I opened a DBA account).
I was in business—until the girlfriend got tired of sewing and promptly ended our arrangement. I guess I should have had a contract. But truth be told, the novelty had worn off and I wasn’t motivated enough to find another supplier. So I filled the orders I had with whatever inventory was left and pulled my ads.
Fast-forward 30 years. I have migrated my publishing skills online, just completed a Master’s degree in Interactive Communications from Quinnipiac University (home of the famed political poll) and set about solving the great challenges of the digital age, in this order:
1. A tool for publishers, bloggers, and others to generate revenue from their online content and services (PayCheckr.com).
2. A way to “add value above the social layer” by filtering and displaying social media content according to topic (TheFrequency.tv, also my Master’s project at QU).
3. An iPhone app that lets listeners record and send audio comments to podcasters (PodPoster), which debuted in the iTunes store back in May.
As you may have guessed, I’m a serial entrepreneur. Or more accurately, a serial innovator. But as my former Rolling Stone colleague (now tech guru) Michael Schrage famously said: “Innovation is not what innovators do, it’s what customers and companies adopt.” So coming up with a great idea or two or three is really just the start of a very long process. I’m deep into patents now; I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Feel free to share your own experiences as an “innovator in chief.”