Diego Zambrano is incredibly magnetic. He’s the only founder in TechStars who came into the program working completely alone, and as his beard would suggest, has an interesting background. Originally from Brazil, Diego spent nearly a decade in the advertising world, leading award winning campaigns for companies like IKEA as a creative director at Ogilvy and other top agencies. He is building a company called Bondsy. While it’s not public yet, Diego calls it a “social network of things.” In our interview, he explains things like why he left advertising and the companies he admires.
What is Bondsy?
Bondsy is the social network of things. We’ll be giving some more specifics about it soon.
Where did the idea for Bondsy come from?
When I was moving from Brazil to NY I had to give and sell my stuff, but I didn’t want to do it with people I didn’t know. So I offered my things to my friends and friends of friends and it was pretty successful. That’s when I started thinking about the problem I’m solving with Bondsy.
What were you doing before you set out to build a company?
I was doing advertising for almost 8 years in Brazil at some big agencies. Then I moved to NY to work with Ogilvy, then headed to RGA, and finally back to Ogilvy as a Creative Director for IKEA.
What made you leave the Advertising world to pursue entrepreneurship?
I started noticing a lot of my creative ideas being killed by clients. The fear of failing is one of the main problems in advertising, I saw that clients were looking for ideas that had been proven to work before. I think disruption and innovation is about having a leap of faith. So I decided to make the move to have the chance to truly innovate. After getting my green card it was a no brainer for me, as I had been thinking about this idea since 2007.
What is the startup scene in Brazil like, is it growing?
I’ve been here for 5 years now, so I’m not totally dialed in to the current state, however I do have a few friends with successful startups in Brazil. I was actually working at a startup in Brazil as my first job, but I left because there weren’t too many opportunities in the startup world then. Now I think it’s going better – the Brazilian economy seems to be doing well and the World Cup and Olympic Games might drive a lot of new business and innovation. I’ve actually heard a lot of people talk about investing in Brazilian startups. Brazil is one of the most social countries in the world, so when you see the way people in Brazil are picking up stuff like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and many other products it’s a no-brainer.
Are there any companies that have gone about building their product or company in a way that you really admire?
Apple, of course, because they care about how people feel when they use their products. The way I think about my product is how people will feel when they use each and every screen. I’m also huge fan of Instagram, because even while growing so fast they focused on the simplest way to make their users happy. It’s impressive how little they changed. Also Twitter, for a similar reason. They started 6 or 7 years ago and it’s still extremely focused, still has the limitation of 140 characters. They are doing a better job with retweets, shortening links and adding media to tweets, but it’s still the same basic experience. I’m a big fan of Foursquare, for creating a behavior that didn’t exist. It’s so much harder to create a behavior than to embrace one, but because of their long-term vision, they are now able to deliver the value of check-ins. I’m a huge fan of the way they stuck with their product vision.
What has your TechStars experience been like so far?
It’s been great. I’m getting exactly what I expected. As a solo founder it’s really intense because I work an average of 15 hours a day, but I’ve gotten to know a lot of really smart and interesting people and gotten a ton of good feedback around the product.
What has been the best part of running a startup so far?
The best part is that I do something that I really believe in. I’m trying to build something that I think is going to make a lot of people’s lives better. Not just solve a real problem, but bring some joy to people’s lives. And I have fun every day doing it.
What about the worst, or hardest?
Not seeing my wife as much as I used to.