Rohan Hall -- 'I believe in going around the wall' Featured
The Founder/CEO of Cool Mojito, Inc on lessons from life as a serial entrepreneur.
Rohan Hall has 26 years of experience in the technology sector. He is the founder of rSitez, a leading social network website provider. Rohan has developed global technology solutions for various Global 500 organizations throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia including Honda, PeopleSoft/Oracle, Hewlett Packard, Sierra Pacific Resources and Robert Half International. He is the author of Stop Working, a business and technology book that teaches entrepreneurs how to build businesses and take them global. Rohan has a degree in Business Administration from National University. His latest venture, Cool Mojito is an online tool that allows anyone to create and personalize their own Facebook page to include marketing, storefronts and analytics.
How did you come to be in Barcelona?
I grew up in Florida, but I'm originally from Jamaica. I've lived all over the USA and travelled and lived in a bunch of places all over the world but the majority of my time was in Florida, California, Nevada and Colorado. My wife is French and we were in the USA but we wanted to move to Europe to be closer to her family, and also just to get out of the US -- we were a little tired of that -- and we looked all over the place and ended up in Barcelona three years ago.
We're here for lifestyle, we're not here for business. We created our company rSitez to allow us to live wherever we wanted in the world. It's an online business that creates social networking websites for companies and entrepreneurs. We had another business before that -- I've had businesses for 15 years -- called vConcepts and I had others before. It's kinda funny; I create these companies as I go along, to fit whatever I want to do in my life at that time. When I made vConcepts it was a really great company; we worked with Fortune 500 businesses to reengineer them. I was single, I was making lots of money doing that, I was travelling the world and it was just fun, party-party-party, and then when I did rSitez it was like, "I'm married, I don't want to travel a lot anymore, I want to be able to work from home and still have the flexibility to live wherever I wanted to live." Now with Cool Mojito we've learned how to create a viable and profitable online business but we wanted a more scalable online business. We can scale Cool Mojito so much more than rSitez. That's what Cool Mojito is, a product we can scale to global level with multiple languages, multiple currencies and so forth.
You're a serial entrepreneur. What are the top lessons you've learned?
You just decide what you want and you go for it. There are a lot of self-appointed experts, but their experience -- or lack of it -- doesn't necessarily need to be yours. If you have a vision for a company, or a product, or even a lifestyle, don't expect everyone to understand it or even to endorse it. You have to believe in it and go after it. That's what we've done. When we did rSitez the idea was, hey, we wanted to build a company so we could go and live in Europe and not have to worry about the Spanish economy. "Oh it's a bad place to go, you can't do that, the economy's really bad..." Everyone loved the country but said it was a bad place to have a business and that's why I said, "Yeah, but I'm not worried about that; we're going to create a company so we can we live from the revenues online so it doesn't really matter where we live." A lot of people didn't really get that, but that's what we did.
We're seeing a similar thing with Cool Mojito where we've created this company because I have a vision of what Facebook will mean to the market in the next 5 years. Many people don't see that vision. We believe it can evolve and grow with the trajectory that Facebook is on right now but it's not just tied to Facebook. If Google+ becomes the next big thing, or some other unknown entity, it doesn't really matter because our product is created that way. The way it's structured is that if the economy is going well, we're going well. But if it's going badly, then we're going GREAT. Why? Because we have a free product and people look for free or less expensive solutions when the economy starts to go bad. So whichever way the economy goes, we're gonna do well because we're offering people something that would cost them hundreds or thousands of dollars but they use the product for free. And not just use it, but also use OUR product to sell THEIR products and services.
So the answer to the question is that you have to pursue YOUR vision with all of your passion. There will always be people who don't understand that but that's OK because it's YOUR vision.
What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
Freedom! It is the most absolute way that I believe you can have freedom in every aspect of your life, whether it's financial, or personal, or whatever. I have friends say, "Oh, you're a risk-taker." I'm not a risk-taker! You having a job, YOU'RE a risk-taker because you risk going in on Monday morning and not having a job. I GUARANTEE that will never happen to me. Whether I make a lot of money this month or a little bit of money this month depends on how hard I work. It doesn't depend on what my boss says to me. It's freedom as far as where I want to live. If I want to be in Barcelona or if I want to be in Bora Bora, it doesn't really matter. I have the ultimate freedom to live anywhere in the world I want to. Revenues: some years I'll make TONS of money, some years I'll make, ah, not so much but I'll always do as well or better than if I was working for someone else. If I want to go on holiday, I don't ask for permission. I can just say "Honey, ley's get some tickets and go for two weeks," or a month or however long we want to go because as long as I can bring my laptop, and I have an internet connection, I can always check in to see what we're doing with our clients and I can do whatever I want to do. That's what it means to me -- it means freedom.
Your business is global and not based on a local market but did you face any local regulatory hurdles to get set up?
Absolutely not. I don't really believe you have to play the game that everyone else plays and so whenever I have an opportunity I will take it. I believe in going around the wall instead of trying to beat down the wall. I'm an American citizen so I can create a company in the USA. I created rSitez in the USA because we were living there but we've also created Cool Mojito as an American company so the structure, the foundation of doing business is there and the USA has a really great platform for entrepreneurs to create and grow businesses.
What could Catalonia and Spain learn from those systems?
I think most of Europe needs to learn from those. The government should realise that its greatest source of revenue is going to be from small to mid-sized businesses, from entrepreneurs. Make it easy for these guys to make money -- it's that simple! You can't make it so expensive for an entrepreneur to start a business that it's discouraging and make it so that they have to spend and pay money to the government every month even if they're not making any money. That makes no sense. The majority of entrepreneurs have no funding and no money. They have a regular job, they may have a few Euros extra every month that they could invest in the business, so let them do that! Let them pursue those possibilities without taxing the heck out of them. If you look at the USA and all the innovation that comes from it every year, nearly all of the major companies are from there -- Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn -- and it's not by accident. Facebook started with one thousand dollars, for some servers. Can you really do the same thing in Spain?
There also seems to be a culture there of allowing and understanding failure.
You accept failure! I've started tons of businesses over the years. I started my first business at nineteen years old with no money. I didn't really make any money, well maybe a little bit, but I was still in university and it was a great introduction. And I've had other businesses over the years that didn't do well but that were learning experiences. You accept that you fail but not, "Oh I'm a terrible business person," but, "OK I learned something new so next time I start a business I won't make that same mistake again."
An expert is someone who's failed enough times that they won't make those mistakes again so in that sense I'm quite an expert! I've had years and years of trial and failure to the point that I know now what not to waste time doing and instead focus on what I should be doing for my business.
Latest from Steve Tallantyre
Thursday, 09 February 2012 09:17
congratulations! your life gives a clear picture how positive personal attitude can lead to success in professional life
Tuesday, 07 February 2012 08:51
Great job. You've become an inspiration for me!
Thursday, 05 January 2012 21:02
Nice article. Rohan, I like your answer to "what does being an entrepreneur mean to you" - agreed.
Leave a comment
Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.