Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Chris Riley

Publishing & Media

Chris Riley is the Co-Founder and CMO of Moglue, a desktop platform that enables amateur writers to create interactive e-books, with no programming knowledge required.

Chris Riley is the Co-Founder and CMO of Moglue, a desktop platform that enables amateur writers to create interactive e-books, with no programming knowledge required. Chris attended The State University of New York at Albany, where he majored in finance and ITM, before meeting the other Moglue Co-Founders at a startup event in Seoul, South Korea.

Moglue’s drag-and-drop interface enables users of all ages to create both static and interactive content within their e-books. The platform can be used to create e-books across a range of genres, from children’s books to travel and cookbooks, which can then be published as apps for iOS and Android devices.

1. Where did the idea for Moglue come from?

TaeWoo, Ryan, and I met in May, 2010 at a Start-up Weekend event in Seoul, South Korea. Atomic Antelope’s “Alice for the iPad” had just been released, and was a huge hit. It was a beautiful example of the storytelling possibilities on these new devices, and served as our inspiration. We thought it would be cool if we could help people tell stories like that. Our team spent three days developing the concept behind what would eventually become Moglue. By end of the third day we had a working prototype. Our skill-sets complemented each other well, we’d grown passionate about what we were doing, and we decided to continue to pursue the idea at the conclusion of the event.

2. How do you think self-publishing platforms such as Moglue fit into the future of publishing?

The Moglue platform is going to help democratize app creation and storytelling. I see a lot of parallels between what we’re doing, and the digital recording revolution in the 80s and 90s. Now, anyone can make a great sounding album in their bedroom. Telling stories is something that is universal, and eternal. The only thing that’s changed over time is the way in which they’re told. For the past few years, access to the new platforms has remained in the realm of those with means. We’re going to empower publishers, authors, and artists to create interactive ebooks. We’re going to change publishing, in much the same way that digital audio workstations changed music.

3. Can you describe a typical working day?

My main purpose at Moglue is to get users, and keep them happy. We’re trying to keep the initial group small, because we’re still in beta. You only get one first impression. There’s a tight line to walk between having enough users in order to create an environment that’s friendly and seeded with great content for our launch, and building buzz. I’ll usually start my morning checking my calendar and to-do lists for appointments and items that are due that day. I then will move on to answering support emails, Tweets, Facebook posts, questions in our support forum, and following up with users. After I finish all necessary communication, I check my ‘River of News,’ which includes blogs, newsletters, and Twitter searches. This helps me stay up to date with what’s going on in our space, publish interesting articles for our audience, and ask questions. I use Evernote obsessively, and capture any ‘longer than 2 minute’ material to read/review later. At the moment, I’m also working on a couple of author projects, helping them plan content and build books for our launch. So I’ll spend a few hours working on that. The remainder of my day is spent reaching out and building relationships with people in our space. I kind of have this aversion to traditional marketing practices, so my focus is on building bonds with people. I think if we have a great product, and great relationships, the rest will take care of itself.

4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Moglue?

I’m always working, thinking, talking, and dreaming about Moglue. I spend a lot of time improving systems and how I do things, so I can squeak out a widget of more work the next day. That being said, I love music. It’s a really important part of my life. The way you bond with the audience, or a performer at a show; or how just a split second of a song can bring you to a particular emotion, or moment, in your life is, to me, a wonderful, beautiful, amazing thing. I like to spend my spare time jamming out on my bass, writing songs, and annoying my neighbors.

5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

Learning. Drive.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?

Managing expectations, for myself and the team. Initially, the ups and downs were exhausting. It’s horrible to feel like you’re on top of the world one minute, and an idiot, who has no idea what you’re doing, the next. Also, I’m a perfectionist, and can be pretty tough on myself. I’ll sometimes take hours tweaking small things here and there until whatever I’m working on is flawless. I worry that I might take it out on my teammates, and sometimes forget that we don’t have unlimited resources. Perfection should be a guide, not a goal.

7. What motivates you to keep going?

I tend to take on the characteristics of whatever it is I’m listening to, reading, or watching, so I try to always have a book about someone who built something great that I read every day. 1) I remind myself how lucky I am to have the privilege to worry about the things I get to worry about. What an amazing opportunity we have. Carpe Diem! I’d have to be a real butt-head to mess it up. 2) I try my best to stay organised with my to-dos. I’m a messy beast by nature, so this can be a challenge for me. I find sticking to a weekly self-review helps a lot, and I always check to make sure my Runway-50,000 foot life goals, projects, and tasks are all in alignment. 3) Healthy body, healthy mind; I try to exercise in the mornings. I feel really bad about myself when I walk up the stairs to the subway and am out of breath, so I try to exercise and stay fit. 4) Work hard, play hard. I am trying to get better with self-rewards. I make deals with myself, like “If you push, you can take a Sunday off next month and go on an adventure.” Experiences tend to work better than buying physical goods for motivation, and total enjoyment. 5) I tell myself motivational things like “Just love,” “this too, shall pass,” “do the very next thing that you can; that’s all anyone can ask,” and “MOVE,” whenever I get stressed out or feel like there’s no way I can handle what’s on my plate. They help me stay positive, remember that this state is only temporary, to do my best, and enjoy the ride. The reward is in the journey.

8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Nothing! I am really stubborn, and even if there’s domain wisdom that explains how to do something a certain way, I prefer to try my own way, first. I enjoy going against the grain. I get great satisfaction attempting to reinvent the wheel. How else can you innovate? How do you get ahead, if you do things the same way as everyone else? To get a real understanding, I prefer to learn through trial and error. To find a better way to do something, I like to do it my own way.

9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

We hope to be the standard for people wanting to publish interactive content. We’re going to get there by continuing to do what we’ve been doing: learn with a ravenous appetite. My job may or may nor remain the same. I think my main task will continue to be to get users, and keep them happy. I hate the concept of traditional marketing. I want to focus on building bonds, real relationships, with people using our platform. I read a lot about “user acquisition strategy,” and “optimizing your funnel.” It makes me cringe. I hate thinking of our users in terms of conversion percentages. I’m going to strive to keep our organization human in a way that’s scalable. A big part of my job is going to be harnessing technologies that allow us to better manage our relationships.

10. If you weren’t working on Moglue, what would you be doing?

I can’t imagine doing something outside of the startup realm. I love Moglue… but before I came here I was doing something in the music space, and I’ve always got ideas swimming around. Maybe someday you’ll see. When all is said and done, I just want to keep starting companies, and help others do the same.

11. Tell Springwise a secret…

It’s not so much a secret, but an embarrassing fact about me. I have a slight obsession with female Kpop idol groups. My friends in the US think it’s weird, but it’s part of my reality now, I suppose.

12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Just do it.

You can read more about Moglue in our article here, or visit the Moglue website here.