John Milinovich is a proud Y Combinator, Google, Yahoo!, and UCLA alum. We’ve had the pleasure of knowing John since before he graduated from Flintridge Preparatory high school (when Motorola’s Razr was the new kid on the block). Now he’s changing your mobile search experience in a big, bad way. Imagine a world where all your mobile apps work together in beautiful harmony. Here’s John’s perspective on making the leap into startup life and bypassing an MBA along the way
Talentedly: Was there a moment that sparked the creation of URX?
John Milinovich: URX’s CTO was backpacking across Europe and used his phone to book all of his flights, hotels and find places to eat. When he was traveling from Geneva to Paris, he realized how many apps he had to open to complete the simple task of booking his flight to Paris, and then having to find a well-priced hotel in Paris. By the time he was done, he’d opened 8 apps instead of having a straightforward way of finding what he was looking for. This led us to the realization that apps are so much more opaque than the rest of the web, and we set out to build the technology needed to reconnect apps to the web.
TLY: It’s a bold move to start your own business, regardless of age or industry. What convinced you it was the right move?
JM: It was always something I wanted to do, but never felt I was “ready” to do it. While I was at Google I went through the intellectual exercise of seeing whether I wanted to get my MBA so that I could better prepare to start my own company. When I asked my mentors about this, they conceded that there was no way to prepare for starting a company other than diving in head first. So, that’s what I did.
TLY: What has been the most challenging part of starting your own business?
JM: The most challenging part of starting my own business has been going from zero to one – that is to say, finding that first proof point or morsel of truth that makes you realize that you are onto the right thing. Before you find this product market fit the job of the CEO is very different than it is after this – before, you focus on finding the fit, whereas after you focus on scaling the organization to maximize the potential of the opportunity at hand.
TLY: What is your leadership style? Or what have you learned about leadership along the way?
JM: I lead with my passion for, and dedication to, URX. We’re a culture of intellectually curious individuals who are not afraid to work insanely hard to do something no one has ever done before. In order for me to succeed as the leader of this organization, I have to be the best example of our culture. This is the only way to maintain the trust of the team and to continue to inspire customers, investors and the team that we are on the right path.
TLY: Biggest mistake in the process?
JM: Not making the hard decisions–for example, firing someone as soon as I knew I had to make the call. Often times, the decisions that we delay making are the most important ones to make.
TLY: What has been the most important skill in building a company from the ground up?
JM: Persistence. Things never, ever work the way you would expect them to and the only way through it is to never stop trekking forward. This problem compacts when you’re managing an organization.
TLY: What is the URX culture? How do you instill your company’s culture?
JM: URX is a community of peers who leave their ego at the door and look forward to punching above their weight class. We take pride in learning new things and have an unbridled passion for each other and the problems that we’re solving. The most fascinating thing is that this culture was birthed out of the personalities of the 4 founders of URX and is an amalgamation of all of our personalities.
Once we hired the first few folks and realized that they were a good culture fit we decided to be a bit more deliberate and define what our culture was. From there, it became engrained into every part of URX, most notably our hiring process – and is now a self-reinforcing loop that gets stronger with each new person that we bring onboard.
TLY: If you could go back and give your younger high school-self advice, what would you say?
JM: Journaling, no doubt – I started making writing a habit about 5 years about and it has completely changed my ability to synthesize ideas into concrete thoughts, improved my memory recall, and turned me into a much better communicator, both verbal and written.
TLY: Quote or mantra to live by?
JM: The serenity prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Lydia Loizides is serial entrepreneur, technology provocateur and relentless challenger of the status quo. She spends her days as Founder & CEO of Talentedly, a technology company on a mission to help people grow from good to great at work (technology + people = amazing results). The rest of her waking moments are spent running, reading, learning, and trying to prove that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. You can follow Lydia @lydiaNYC @GetTalentedly, on LinkedIn and the Huffington Post.