Jumpstart Episode 14: Justin Davis
- Justin Davis CEO and Founder at interactive product design firm, Madera Labs
- moving from Nashville to Tampa
- Justin is a great worker, but a terrible employee. He was inspired by his father, who is a doctor
- Justin worked in technology at the United Methodist Church. Inspired by his boss Steven Downing, who helped him approach every project with a human centric way
- Dave mentions Ronni Bennett speaking at Gnomedex
- we discuss user experience and design
- Dave Ramsey talks a lot about running a business with integrity and serving customers
- Rabbi Daniel Lapin has a great book called Thou Shall Prosper, which explores the nature of work
- your success is a reflection of the service you provide.
- capitalism with a conscience
- Justin subscribes to Seth Godin’s blog, Tim Brown’s Design Thinking, Designing For Devices, and Jeff Cornwall’s blog on entrepreneurship.
- check out IDEO’s case studies too!
- Justin meets his accountability group at 6:30 each Monday morning to review and set goals for each other. They share financials and everything. They each work in their own industries, so competition is not a concern. The group consists of Joel Widmer, Kenny Silva and Travis Robertson, who has written two blog posts about how to create your own accountability group.
- contact Justin at MaderaLabs.com or on Twitter as @jwd2a
Justin’s 3 tips every entrepreneur needs to know
- Never follow Seth Godin (when you’re doing a podcast interview)
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t underestimate yourself. Jump in a do it!
- Form an accountability group with fellow entrepreneurs
Please SUBSCRIBE to the podcast is in iTunes, so you’ll get new episodes as they are available.
Jumpstart theme song “DLDN Instrumental (ft. Onlymeith, Mellotroniac)” by: St. Paul from ccMixter.
Dave: Welcome to Jumpstart. I am your host Dave Delany. My guest today is Justin Davis; Founder and CEO of Madera Labs. Hey Justin, how are you doing?
Justin: Hey Dave, I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
Dave: Yeah. Thanks a lot man. I know you’re a busy guy. Tell me a little about Madera Labs.
Justin: Sure. Madera Labs is a com interactive product design company. It started out just as strictly user experience design company – and that’s my passion’s huge experience design. We work to help companies create and design interactive products; be they websites or applications, kiosks, [Inaudible – 00:00:50], appliances, whatever – anything that’s interactive with a screen. We work hard to help make using those things a better experience for the people using it.
Dave: Uh-hm. How long have you been doing that now?
Justin: Madera Labs has been around about a year and half so far. I’ve been in the web games since the late ‘90s and I’ve done user experience work for a while. But just about a year and half ago, I finally started Madera Labs and kicked it out on its own.
Dave: Very nice. Very nice. And you’re moving – you’re picking up shop and moving to Tampa, Florida from Nashville?
Justin: Yeah. I think it’s about four or five days from now.
Justin: Yeah, we have a truck in the driveway loaded with most of the stuff. Right now, we’re sad to leave Nashville. I absolutely love Nashville – big family here that I’ll miss greatly, but Tampa’s a cool place and we’re going to try to see what we can do down that way.
Dave: That sounds good. So at what point in your career did you recognize the entrepreneurial bug biting you? (Laugh)
Justin: (Laugh) Yeah. It’s a strong bite no doubt.
Dave: Yes, yes.
Justin: You know, I think that for me, I always kind of knew that I was going to do that. My dad is a doctor; owns his own practice and so I grew up sort of in that environment. And I always thought that I would do something on my own. I’ve always said this that “I’m a great worker. I work my ass off, but I’m a terrible employee.”
Justin: I’m just really not a good employee. And so I realized that early on that I just don’t fit well into the corporate mold or in – or just working for somebody. I’m just a little bit too – maybe not a loose cannon but – you know, I just…
Justin: I always wanted to do my own way. It just took a little while to get there, right? So I had to work in companies for while to get the skills and to get – sort of boned up and knowing exactly what I wanted to do. But I guess it was about two years ago back in – what is now – 2011—back in 2009, when I was finally – you know, I was over it and had the confidence to be able to say, “You know, let’s just go ahead and make the jump, and see what happens. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?” And so far, it’s turned out incredible, so it’s great.
Dave: Yeah, you’re doing a great job. As far as user experience stuff goes, how did you get into that world?
Justin: Yes. So I was working for the [Inaudible – 00:03:14] Church actually for four years. And I started out there just doing just typical web stuff development design – that kind of work; project management. And I worked for a guy named Steven Downey who was my boss, and he had this unbelievable knack for understanding people; who’s a psychology major out of school.
Justin: But he was a technologist who [Inaudible – 00:03:39] technology. And so everything that we did, every time that we went into a project; he would approach it with this very human centered type of way, talking about – you know, not like what features do you want but let’s think about how people are using this, and sort of cognitive theory of interface and this kind of thing. And over the years working for him, that sort of became my de facto standard for how I did this kind of work, right?
Justin: And I really – through that, developed a passion for helping make technology just to deliver better experience – easier to use for people. So that’s where it all started.
Dave: Yeah, it’s interesting when you think – I mean, I think a lot of people – especially a lot of young designers may not necessarily always think about the design that their doing as far as who their reaching and how they’ll use it. I remember seeing a woman named Ronni Bennett speak at Gnomedex a few – a number of years ago now – Gnomedex Conference. She calls herself like an elder blogger. She’s probably in her – I would guess late 50s late 60s. And so her blog was all about – you know, not just design but about blogging for older folks. And it was interesting; she was talking to the audience in her presentation about young designers designing white copy on black sites and how that kills older people’s eyes, and just things like that that were really fascinating, and things I hadn’t really thought about too.
Justin: Yeah, it’s remarkable. I mean, there’s a whole world out there – stuff you wouldn’t ever think of. And when you start to look into it and you start to look at the science and you start to watch people use interfaces and find out why they fail in this kind of thing – it’s remarkable; the things that you find out and that you take for granted every day.
Dave: Right, right, right. And are you talking mainly about placements of links and things or color and design as well or kind of everything?
Justin: So I think it runs the gamete right.
Justin: It goes all the way from a sort of this very high level – sort of service design experience design type of work where – you know, you’re talking about – like when somebody comes to use an interactive product; website, web app – anything.
Justin: What context are they coming in? Like what cues do they use to get there? And so what message do you need to provide to them to allow them to continue that task? And then when they leave using that thing, what the next piece of that journey, right? Like it’s very large scale look at the service design of things. And then it goes all the way down into sort of – on a particular page you know? There’s this concept of affordance where like physical cues like underlines and colors on links actually tell us that those things can be clicked. And if we sort of style those things out it makes it harder for us not to understand what those things are. So yeah, there’s a wide range of places where this is applicable.
Dave: And you mention before about your dad and also this former employer – who inspires you today? Who really gets you heated up and going?
Justin: Boy, there’s certainly a very long line of people. I tell you one of the people who right now inspire me and has for years, and it may be a slightly unusual person to name especially in the entrepreneurial type of thing but is Dave Ramsay.
Justin: I’m a huge Dave Ramsay fan and have been for a long time. And he’s been doing a lot; he’s writing – he’s written a book called [Inaudible – 00:0:05] Leadership that’s coming out this fall.
Justin: And that’s not a shameless [Inaudible – 00:07:08].
Justin: Although it sounded like it – in stores in September 20.
Dave: Right. (Laugh)
Justin: But he talks a lot about how to run a business with integrity and how to serve customers. There’s also a guy who I’ve read a lot of that is very inspirational named Rabbi Daniel Lapin. I read a book called Thou Shall Prosper. And again, it talks about the nature of work and the nature – and this isn’t necessarily inspiration for like user experience although there’s plenty of those. These are people who talk about – you know, how to run a company that honestly serves people, not just goes out and tries to shill for people and get money, and all these kinds of things. And honestly it serves – and of our success, reflection of that service that you provide. It’s very inspirational and it’s certainly been a guiding light for how I run my company; and it works. (Laugh)
Dave: And it’s pretty nice to be able to sleep at night too right?
Justin: It’s capitalism with a conscience.
Justin: That’s the way it works.
Dave: Are there blogs or websites right now that you’re subscribed to that you’re getting stuff from for sort of feel your business and sort of that entrepreneurial mindset?
Justin: Yeah, you know there’s – I mean, obviously Seth Godin.
Justin: I read Seth just about every day.
Dave: He was just on in this podcast.
Dave: He was interviewed in a couple of episodes ago.
Justin: Yeah, yeah, I listened to that.
Justin: Amazing. Amazing.
Justin: So Seth is a big one. There are some design things that I read to – Tim Brown from IDO. It’s a great design company. He has a great blog called Design Thinking. There’s a guy who does – oh, now I’m forgetting – it’s called – the blog is called Designing for Devices. It’s a great interaction design blog.
Justin: You know I – Jeff Cornwall’s blog is great.
Justin: He’s a local [Inaudible – 00:09:07] guy here on entrepreneurship.
Dave: Yeah. He mentors actually on Jumpstart as well.
Justin: Oh, yeah.
Dave: A Jumpstart founder – yeah.
Justin: Excellent! He’s a great guy.
Justin: So there’s – those – you know on the design front, IDO a big inspiration for me. I sit at night and just look through their case studies and read their case studies.
Justin: Very dorky way to spend the evening.
Justin: It’s very, very inspirational stuff.
Dave: Oh that’s great. I’ll be sure to add show notes – add links and things in the show notes so people can find these blogs. Usually with each episode, I wrap up each episode with asking for three tips that you would offer other entrepreneurs.
Justin: Yeah well, the first one is – you know, because I listened to the Seth Godin episode of this podcast.
Dave: (Laugh) Don’t give me one tip. You have to give me three.
Justin: (Laugh) And then like the next day, I got your email about being on the podcast, and I was like “Are you kidding?” (Laugh)
Justin: And so my first one is never follow Seth Godin.
Dave: (Laugh) That’s funny.
Justin: You know my second tip I guess would be – oh man, I just had this in my head, I should have written them down.
Dave: Another advice.
Justin: I guess my second tip – one that I would always say, it’s very cliché obviously is the whole don’t be afraid to fail thing, and everybody says that. And I think that what’s – the reason everybody says that and the reason it’s become so cliché is because – once you’ve done this, you realize how true that is. And I think the corollary to that is don’t underestimate yourself you know? A lot of people don’t make the jump into working for themselves – don’t make the jump into entrepreneurship because they think “Oh I’m not ready. I don’t know enough.” – Whatever. That’s false. You know, just jump in and start doing it. And I mean, really learn by trouble by fire. The third thing I would say which has probably been one of the biggest helps for my business over the last year and a half is form an accountability group. I do this every week; myself and three other entrepreneurs who have just started companies within the past couple of years or so – in that same sort of stage of business. We each get together on Monday mornings at six thirty in the morning for two hours and we set goals with each other. And every week, we review the goals that we set for last week, talk about why we didn’t hit those or why we did. We talk about what’s working in our business, challenges, and all that – it’s very open. We share financials, we share everything.
Dave: That’s great.
Justin: It’s a very open group. And having that support group of people to go to every week – every Monday morning, is absolutely priceless. It has – I think to a large extent – been the reason that I’ve been able to do so well over the past year and a half.
Dave: Well, that’ a great tip actually. And how did you – are these like long time friends or are these people you’ve met in the industry kind of thing? How did this come together?
Justin: You know it was one of the – a friend of mine; Travis Robertson here in Nashville…
Justin: He and I have known each other for a little while and then he actually was the one who came up – he had heard about this from someone else. And he asked me and said, “Let’s do this.” So it was the two of us for a little while. And then added in a couple of the folks; Joel Withmere and Kimmy Silva – who – Joel, I’ve worked with on a project last year – early last year so not really a long time friend, but now has become an extremely close friend. And Kimmy was kind of the same way, someone who I knew from about but didn’t really have a long standing relationship with. The key is none of us are in the same industry, and so there’s no competitive issues there or anything like that. And very – you know, when you sit around with people are in your same industry, you just tend to tell each other how right you are.
Dave: Sure. Yeah, kind of preaching to the choir.
Justin: Yeah, and this isn’t that because you get people who are in totally different types of businesses helping you work through problems and yours that they know nothing about your industry but they can give a – because of that – because of that truly unique approach, they can give a whole lot of valuable advice.
Dave: Yeah, no that’s a really, really good idea.
Justin: And Travis – just – if anybody’s listening wants to plan one of these…
Justin: Travis – travisrobertson.com. He wrote a blog post – like a two part blog post about how to set one of these up.
Dave: Oh that’s great. I’ll definitely add…
Dave: Yeah, I’ll add the link to that in the show notes as well so people can find that.
Justin: Yeah. Excellent!
Dave: Awesome! Well listen, I know you’re a busy guy with all your moving boxes and such, and we’re sorry to see leaving Nashville but we wish you all the best I know.
Justin: Why thank you. You’ll still see a lot of me.
Dave: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Hey, where can folks find you if they want to learn more?
Justin: Sure, you can find Madera Labs at maderalabs.com. That’s maderalabs.com. And you can catch me just in Twitter at jwd2a.
Dave: Cool! Well thank you so much, I appreciate it.
Justin: Excellent! Thanks Dave!
Dave: Okay. Bye!
Posted on July 10, 2011
Categories: Blog, Podcast
Tags: Dave Ramsey, Design Thinking, Designing or Devices, Gnomedex, Jeff Cornwall, Joel Widmer, Justin Davis, Kenny Silva, Madera Labs, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Ronni Bennett, Seth Godin, Steven Downing, Thou Shall Prosper, Tim Brown, Travis Robertson, UI, United Methodist Church, UX