Welcome to the Eventual Millionaire Podcast. I’m Jaime Tardy and today we have Amos Winbush, III on the show. He is CEO of CyberSynchs, a company that stores and transfers data from all media devices. They actually launched in November 2008 just one week after the presidential election and within two weeks they had 13,000 subscribers signed up. They’ve grown tremendously since and I can’t wait to hear this story. Welcome, Amos. Thanks for being here.
AMOS WINBUSH III: Thanks for having me Jaime.
JAIME TARDY: Excellent. So I’d love to first hear how you came up with this idea for CyberSynchs.
AW: Sure. It was in 2008 and I was in the music business – singer/songwriter. It was a 14-hour recording day and I purchased a first generation iPhone and it completely crashed so out of sheer frustration of losing all of my information I thought of CyberSynchs.
JT: Wow. So how did you go from singer/songwriter to tech entrepreneur?
AW: You know what, I think innovation is stemmed from necessity. There was nothing on the marketplace to fix my issue and I thought that if I had this same problem there had to be millions of other people who had this exact same issue and at the time there were over 4.4 billion mobile devices in the world so I said, “Let’s start a company.” If we can get a percentage of this 4.4 million then we could have a company that is really innovative and can take over the marketplace and what I did was I did a lot of research. I called my business manager and said, “How do I start this company?” And he said you need to find some software engineers so I did a lot of research to find out what software engineers actually were and what their function was.
JT: That’s impressive.
AW: And I took it to Craigslist and found a CTO from Craigslist and some engineers from Craigslist and they came onboard full time to develop the solution.
JT: Wow, that’s a great story. Tell me more about that moment because you went from an artist and usually artists don’t have a lot of business background, no offense to you, of course. You said you had a business manager. But how did you go like, “Yes, I’m going to take on this potentially huge business opportunity” and just go at it full force?
AW: Well I think being in the music business it has taught me to be fearless and I had no idea what I was getting into starting a technology company. Not only that, I had no idea how much it would actually take to launch a technology company in a market that wasn’t doing too well. You know, the largest recession ever to strike America, I am launching a tech company with $250 and really thinking about the solution and how it would be so great if I had this product. I really didn’t think it through as to what it would take to keep a company and grow it. Being in the music industry taught me to be fearless and fearlessness allowed CyberSynchs to be born.
JT: Wow. So first I have to ask what did you spend that $250 on?
AW: Getting incorporated. That was what we spent the money on. We got incorporated so to anyone out there who wants to start a business and you’re in New York City or wherever you are, find out how much it actually will cost to register your company and start that way. It’s the easiest thing to do.
JT: Excellent. So what did you do? How did you find people on Craigslist? Did you say I have this great idea, work for free please?
AW: Pretty much, yes. I thought of CyberSynchs in June 2008 so between June 2008 and July, about the third week in July, I did a lot of research to find out what I wanted CyberSynchs to be, what type of person I wanted to hire for CyberSynchs and what our growth trajectory would be over the next 6 to 12 months and I formulated a post in late July, placed it on Craigslist and received about 300 hits or responses back to my post. I interviewed maybe 60 percent of them and ran across Tyler Thackery who is my chief technology officer and brought him onboard at the beginning of August and I let him know.
I said, “There is no pay for this position now but I will give you a percentage of equity in the company.” So I gave him a percentage of ownership in the firm and I deferred his salary for over a year and he said he would be really excited to join the team and he loved the idea and he came onboard.
JT: Wow, that’s extremely impressive. I mean you hear about bootstrapping. That is excellent bootstrapping right there. So how did you weed out, out of 300 responses, how did you, by doing 60 percent of them, how did you weed out people?
AW: The number one thing that I did was I of course had them signed MBA non-circumvent agreements which I was very familiar with being in the music industry and if they said no this can’t be done then the conversation was immediately over with. Tyler was the first person to walk into the coffee shop which was where we were meeting at the time, to walk into the coffee shop and say this not only can be done but we’re going to make it really, really great.
JT: And going from June of the idea to hiring in late July and then launching in November that’s a really fast trajectory. Tell me about that startup.
AW: What we did is very early on is had to think about what the product was going to be and Tyler and I and the development team sat down and said this is what I think CyberSynchs is and I was completely open to what they had in mind as well. We started to develop from that white board that we had and that meant finding out what is the easiest operating system for us to start developing and releasing and that was windows. So we started to develop on windows mobile.
Simultaneously developing the back end of our solution, the database, etc. and getting the SSL certificates and then going to the user interface so that our users saw a product that was different, innovative but really easy to use and it took us from between August to October to get this done because our product was completely finished and we had this launch date of November 4 and everybody knows that November 4, the first Tuesday of November is when we hold elections. So the presidential election was November 4 so I had to push the launch back to November 10.
JT: That’s great. And I think it’s great that you said, “Beforehand you didn’t even know what a systems engineer was” and then you’re talking about SSL certificates and user interface. I think that’s amazing how much you’ve learned in between just in those couple of months of really doing it.
JT: So what did you do though because you were an artist and a singer/songwriter. How did you still make money? How did you decide to jump into a new business full time?
AW: I think being in the music business it allowed me to save up some money so I had released a song called Babylon of the Orient and luckily SanDisk MP3 player picked it up and pre-downloaded it on all of their MP3 players.
AW: Thank you. So that afforded me the ability to work for a year without bringing any money into the company or actually having to go out and find a part-time job to sustain the family. And you have to realize at this point I had been married since March 31, 2007 so I was a newlywed and going to my wife and saying, “Hey I’m going to start a company and I’m not going to be traveling anymore and we’re going to be really broke for wow, are you okay with this?” And she totally was okay with it.
JT: She totally was. That’s really good.
AW: Yes, she totally.
JT: Because sometimes if it’s not it’s a totally different story, right?
AW: Yes, it could have been. It could have been pretty bad, yes.
JT: Now does she work and was she able to make some income so that way you didn’t have to worry about that side of things so much?
AW: Yes, she did and she still does now. She is a PR executive so she was all about public relations and she was probably the best help in the early part of my career ever from she is one of those early adapters with Twitter. She currently has like over 6,000 Twitter followers and she really helped me kind of harness the public side of what CyberSynchs should be. So yes, she was working and also moonlighting with helping CyberSynchs unofficially.
JT: So nice to marry into that.
AW: Yes, absolutely.
JT: Excellent. So I mean and then tell me, so you launched on November 10 and within the two weeks you had 13,000 subscribers. Maybe that’s partly from your wife but tell me about what you did in PR and anything to try and generate that many subscribers.
AW: Well the fun thing that we did is I started to think where do we have an automatic plug where we don’t have to focus so much on reaching out to reporters or editors and saying please feature CyberSynchs. And it dawned on me that I am living in New York City but of course I’m a small town boy from Shreveport, Louisiana so we have this great newspaper. It’s called the Shreveport Times which is owned by USA Today. They are their owners.
And we reached out to their tech editor and their business editor and they loved the story, they plugged it in, hometown boy launches a new technology company in New York City and it just kind of took its life of its own from there.
JT: Wow. Did they put it up on the wire and it went to other places or did you just get lots and lots of people from your local area to sign up?
AW: It was all locally. They gave us an entire page and the front of the business section was about CyberSynchs.
JT: That’s huge. That’s huge. You’re in New York City yet you have all of your subscribers coming from Louisiana. That’s great. That’s a great story. So what did you do from there? You had 13,000 subscribers. First of all, you must have been extremely excited for two weeks and being able to have that much growth.
AW: I was extremely scared. I was absolutely frightened because we had a server in the very beginning that only supported 15,000 users. So we’re thinking “Oh my, we have 13,000 subscribers, our servers are only going to 15,000 of them. What’s going to happen if next week we wake up and our servers are completely down and we can’t support these, our subscribers.” So I was excited and really frightened at the exact same time that this company that we had dreamt about and started to develop was actually a reality and people were using the service.
JT: And it was all up to you.
AW: And it was all up to me. It wasn’t an idea at this point. It wasn’t something that was remaining within the four walls of my apartment which is where we launched CyberSynchs and it was actually on the market and people were using it and we had the responsibility of keeping these individuals contents secure and safe and accessible at any given time.
JT: Wow, so what sort of advice do you have for somebody in your situation? Now looking back, you have wisdom beyond your years now. So looking back, what would you give for advice for someone that’s going through that right now?
AW: I think the very first thing I would give is, I guess you can say, as advice is do a lot of planning. And once you finish the planning, make sure that you have flawless execution, no matter what that is. If that means making sure that your team or you are really focused on making the site as secure as possible or as user friendly as possible, but don’t underestimate the value of the planning and execution stage because if you don’t do that well, then nothing you’re doing will ever succeed. Everyone likes to talk about passion and passion and passion and passion is really great but ultimately passion only leads you so far.
You need people onboard who either things differently than you do or you should find an advisor at the very early stage to help you out with things that you don’t know and that all happens within the planning and execution phase.
JT: Definitely. So when you’re going through all that and you’re doing all the planning and you’re ready to take that leap, I’m going back just a little bit, you said you were fearless. And I’ve heard a lot of people talk about risk and how important risk is to really achieving the goals that you want to achieve. How in the music business or however you learned it, how did you become fearless and were okay with taking such a big risk.
AW: Well you learn quickly in the music business that rejection is a part of your name so my name is Amos Rejection Winbush, III. When you’re in the music business and you just have to grow a thick skin and the rejection doesn’t mean that the person doesn’t like you, it could be a lot of other circumstances that have driven that person or entity to reject whatever you’re trying to deliver to them. So that really helped me in the very beginning having that music background and hearing no so much it just kind of came with the territory and it taught me that okay if you’re going to say no, then I’m going to prove you wrong. I didn’t put the tail between the legs and cry and say, “Oh, you don’t like me.” I actually went to prove them wrong.
JT: So you used it in a different sense. You re-changed where the energy was going and just said, “Fine, I’ll figure out myself.”
AW: Yes, totally.
AW: I’ll do it myself. You don’t want to give me $100,000 I’ll actually pull $200,000 of my own saving out and bootstrap and get money from family members which is what I did and really just made it happen myself with no help in the very beginning.
JT: So you didn’t get any funding at all for this? You just had help from friends and family? No like venture capital or anything like that?
AW: Well, for us, we have several stages in CyberSynchs. The first stage was out of our own pockets and then friends and family which was great and then when we grew the business to a point where we needed outside funding, we had something to rest on and said, “Okay, this is how fast we’ve grown and this is what we’ve done with the little resources that we’ve been given.” So in August 2009 we received $600,000 in seed funding and we gave up 6 percent of the company for $600,000 which is unheard of.
JT: Wow, that’s awesome. So we’re sort of still back at the early stages. How did you go from just starting within a couple months to growing to where you are today because you guys are global or going global now, right?
AW: We are global. Yes, we’re global.
JT: Wow, from an apartment in New York City to global in just a couple years, that’s really impressive. Yes, we’ve been working really hard. Don’t underestimate getting out of your own box and going to talk to other people at networking events and that’s exactly what I did. In October 2008, I was at a networking event and it was just presenting CyberSynchs to the audience and after I left the stage from presenting, a couple of executives from Sun Microsystems walked up to me. I had no idea that they were executives from Sun Micro and they let me know that they really enjoyed the presentation, would love to find out more information about CyberSynchs and see if we could do a partnership.
So October 2008 we’re talking to Sun Microsystems, a multibillion dollar company, and they’re releasing this new technology called Java Effects to the marketplace so within a couple of weeks we started to really get into what CyberSynchs really was. Sun Microsystems allowed us to have 15 of their really great engineers to help us with the security, with the load balancing testing, with the scalability of our application in our infrastructure and that’s how CyberSynchs set the foundation of where we are today.
JT: Wow, so not many people can say Sun Microsystems walked up to me and said, “Hey why don’t we do something together.” That’s great.
AW: You totally have to take advantage of the cards that you were dealt. The market was really bad. The market crashed in August that year and we knew that there were going to be a lot of major companies that wouldn’t have the budget to produce a solution like ours. So it was in our best interest to move into a partnership with major technology companies as an added value and do a revenue share with them. So that’s what we did with Sun Micro.
JT: Excellent. So hearing all these wonderful successes as you’re growing, did you guys run into failures and obstacles along the way?
AW: All the time.
JT: Okay, good.
AW: We still run into…
JT: Tell us about a couple of them.
AW: Yes, we still run into them now. I think going global was and is still the most exciting thing ever. We launched a technology, our licensing agreement with a company in Central and South America called Why Defense in Bozitin where its seven-year contracts and they’re bringing onboard over 2 million users within those seven years to having a partnership with Bharti Airtel in Africa which is the fifth largest telecommunications firm in the world with over 200 million subscribers to working on three partnerships here in the U.S. where we’ll be bringing onboard roughly 3 million subscribers onto CyberSynch Syncing Solution and about 8 million people in Australia.
So we do receive a lot of rejection and those rejections come from investors. We’re in the process of raising a $5 million round and we receive a lot of rejections even to this day with major contracts and it’s not always a bad thing. It can be very hard but it allows us the ability to really stay focused and say really what we want. We’ve learned to be flexible but not to a point where we bend and break what our core principles are.
JT: That’s excellent. And how many people do you have working in the company now?
AW: There are currently 15 of us. We’re going to grow to about 27 at the most. The beautiful thing about CyberSynchs is we license our technology out to our global partners and they house all of the data on their servers so we’re not housing any of this content on our physical servers which is great.
JT: Yes. Less worries for you guys.
AW: Totally, totally.
JT: Wow, that’s excellent. So let’s go back a little but to sort of how you grew up because a lot of the times we hear success stories and we’re sort of like oh wow well of course they can do it. They have the education or whatever it is. How did you grow up and did you know a lot about business when you started like getting into the singer/songwriter industry and that sort of thing?
AW: I grew up in Louisiana and I grew up with a mother who is a very, very strong savvy business woman who was a general manager for a company called IBC Corporations which handles Hostess Cupcakes and Little Debbie’s and all that stuff. And my father was in the music business and very smart guy and I had both of those left and right brains active at a very young age. I knew that I wanted to be a singer/songwriter from a very early age and that was my main goal and everything that I did up until I was 18 was to make that dream happen.
I knew absolutely nothing about the business itself going into the business. But I knew that I could have really great advice from my father and his friends and my mother about what mistakes not to make. I am aware that everyone doesn’t have those luxuries but everyone has the ability to create that network. It’s not beyond your reach. You can definitely create that.
JT: That’s a really good point. I mean just because you haven’t grown up with a mom or dad that already knows a lot of information that you could use, you can find a mentor that does the exact same thing. So having access to the information is really what’s important, not who gives you the information and who doesn’t.
AW: Absolutely. And it’s so easy these days with Linked In and Facebook and Query and Twitter to reach out to people. I have one of the probably the most great friendships with Jeffrey Hayzlett from Twitter who was the chief marketing officer of Kodak and that’s how we started talking to Kodak is through Jeffrey Hayzlett and on Twitter. So it’s definitely possible.
JT: So how did your mindset have to change because you were out in New York City but you sort of went hey I am in my apartment and two guys trying to start this thing up and now we start growing. Your mindset has to complete change to start playing with Sun Microsystems and really bringing in tons of revenue. What did you do internally with your mindset to try and grow?
AW: We hired a chief financial officer. I actually went out and hired a CFO and his name is Joseph Jimoh and he is still with us today to set up all those processes that I had absolutely no interest in doing nor did I know how to do it. So my main focus was I am really good at what I can do and that’s business development and hiring great people and seeing the possibility in individuals and bringing different personalities and making all that work.
I don’t know how to code so I knew I had to bring onboard a chief technology officer. I am not great with crunching numbers and creating Excel sheets and all that so I knew I had to bring onboard a chief financial officer. And those are the individuals who helped make CyberSynchs what it is today and we’re excited about bringing additional people onboard to bring CyberSynchs to the next level. I had to realize that in the very beginning of CyberSynchs we were a small company but if we were going to grow any larger than the four walls in my apartment, the mindset had to change and that had to change very quickly.
So most individuals talk about business plans. CyberSynchs, we didn’t develop a business plan. We had everything in a notebook and we had action plans and our action plans led our lives in what’s the next step of CyberSynchs was going to be. And I think if we had developed a business plan we would have been so rigid to that business plan and inflexible that we wouldn’t be able to change the way the business worked. So I knew CyberSynchs, we released a product as a B to C product directly from business to the consumers.
But if we were going to have hockey stick growth, we would have to continue to have the B to C plan but also a B to B component where we could get a couple of million people on this solution much faster than we would if we were to go out and court individual customers.
JT: Wow, that’s huge. Yes, that’s a total mindset shift too, just changing your whole business around or at least diversifying what your business is doing. So what did that action plan look like? Like what did it have in it? How were you working from it every day?
AW: Oh my God, I don’t think you want to see that notebook. It’s pretty, it’s ragged. The first thing was it talked about our business and what CyberSynchs core principles are and everything from there kind of went well and it just kind of fell into place. We had a 6 to 12 month, actually we had a 12-month trajectory of what we wanted CyberSynchs technology to look like broken down week by week with actionables and deliverables that we could quantify and go back and say this is what we’ve done and succeeded on this week. Next week onto something completely different.
The following we talked about marketing and business development in a sales team. Of course there weren’t any of those people. Those people were me. So it was all about how many hours I was going to put in to creating this appearance of this large corporation or medium size corporation with multibillion dollar companies that are looking to do partnerships with us very early one. And that wasn’t difficult. Most companies really enjoyed the fact that we were small, there wasn’t any red tape for them to cut through and we could make it happen.
If they asked for something today we could get that to them within four weeks where other companies would take months to do, we could deliver it working 12-hour days in four weeks.
JT: Well you bring up a good point. How many hours a week did you have to work at the beginning and of course now and is it different or are you still working your butt off every day?
AW: No, it’s very different. We’re still working our butts off but it’s a very different working our butt off. In the very beginning it was 14, 16-hour days. They were very, very tough. Not only on me but on my CTO and his team because we had to prove ourselves and even to this day we’re still having to prove ourselves. But it’s proving ourselves in a completely different way now. Now I work between 8 to 10 hours a day, not all the way through but dedicating about 8 to 10 hours of my time to CyberSynchs and that means when I’m in the office and even when I’m at home answering emails.
JT: So what’s the biggest goal that you guys are working on right now?
AW: Our biggest goal now and our biggest push is to release CyberSynchs into car computer systems. We’re super excited about that.
JT: Wow, yeah.
AW: We think that integrating CyberSynchs into car computer systems and we’re currently talking to a couple of car manufacturers about having completely wireless synchronization back up of all of your content from your television, your DVR, your mobile device, your internet enabled digital camera, to your iPad, your iTunes all wirelessly synchronizing into your car computer system.
JT: That’s a great idea, I need that! I need that. Good, good. That’s great.
AW: It’s already patented so we’re just looking for that great partner to make it happen.
JT: Excellent. So let me say, if you could do it all over again, it’s only been a couple of years but if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
AW: You know what, I don’t think that we would do anything differently. The way the company is I think we’ve been super blessed and have the great honor to be at the right place at the right time with an idea that filled a void in the marketplace and everything that happened in the past has allowed us to be where we are now. So I wouldn’t change anything.
JT: Excellent. So what’s one action item that everyone can do this week, our listeners are entrepreneurs and people that own their own business. What can they do this week that will really push them forward to their goal of a million?
AW: Don’t over think it. It’s not literally, that’s the easiest advice that anyone ever gave me that I could actually put into place. As entrepreneurs we tend to analyze everything way too much. Don’t over think it, just do it. If it’s not right, it’s not the end of the world and especially if you have a product such as CyberSynchs, it’s all about alpha and beta testing and the market will tell you what they want. As entrepreneurs we decided what we want our solution to be. Honestly, the public decides what they want our solutions to be and if we’re smart we’ll listen to them and we’ll actually give them what they want.
JT: So then I have one quick follow up question, that’s usually the last question I ask, but you said don’t over think it and you also said plan. How can you deal with both of them together?
AW: You know, I think planning is setting the cornerstone of what you want your company to be but once you do that, don’t over think it. Meaning don’t fret over every small minute issue that could come up or may come up or has come up. Release it to the market and get as much information as you possibly can with the consumers. Let them know that this is an alpha testing or this is a beta testing and you are looking to get valuable feedback to make the product better.
So the planning stage is what you do very early on. After planning, execution. After execution, you need to release and then after you release, you need to set the expectation with your team and your users to provide you with as much information as you possibly can. But if you over think what you’re doing, you will never get to that release portion. You will always be at the execution and you will always be at the planning phase but you will never put action into actually releasing your product to marketplace which could be very detrimental to your company.
JT: Definitely. Great advice. So many people over think it. That’s really good to hear from somebody who is so successful like you are. Thank you so much for coming on, Amos. I really appreciate it. I also forgot to mention that you were up from Inc. magazine where the Top 30 Under 30 entrepreneurs which is huge. So nobody can tell based on your voice that you’re under 30 but you are. So you’ve accomplished a ton of stuff before you even hit 30. So congratulations on everything that you’ve been doing.
Everybody can check out CyberSynchs.com at cybersynchs.com, right?
AW: You got it.
JT: Awesome. I’ll also link it up to the show notes so everybody can click on it and take a look because it’s a good solution for everyone. I know I was thinking that I needed to get it too. I had my iPhone after I was doing research for you and was like, “Oh no, what if I lost this? What would I do? I have no back ups.”
AW: We’re super excited about it. We actually had an iPhone app that was on the market for about four months and it did really, really well with the iPhone 3.3 and we took it down to release iPhone 4 that had way more connectivity that Apple actually allowed us to do it so the application with the new iPhone release hopefully will be out within the next couple of weeks. We’ll have automatic synchronization of all of your content on that device. So new website, new solutions hitting the market. And we’re going into PC synchronization and digital camera and camcorder synchronization so a lot more to come.
JT: Excellent. So is CyberSynch the best website to find you on or do you have any other places online that you’re residing? Are you on Twitter or Facebook or anything like that?
AW: Oh yeah, I am on Twitter and my handle is @techceo and of course CyberSynchs is @CyberSynchs and you can always find me on Linked In which is Amos Winbush, III.
JT: Excellent. Thank you so much for coming. We really appreciate it. Have a great day, Amos.
AW: Thanks Jaime.
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