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Same Town, New Business: Sean Whiteley on Building Businesses in Silicon Valley

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Sean Whiteley has been in the tech business since the internet was first taking off back in the 1990s. In fact, he was early enough to the party to snag the sean@aol.com email address. But a lot has changed since those early days, and Sean has been through plenty of highs and lows along the way. He’s loved his time in Silicon Valley, but he recognizes that life in the Bay Area isn’t all that the world has to offer.

“Don’t get too stuck here in Silicon Valley,” Sean cautions. “There’s a lot of greatness and I love it here. I love the dynamic here where risk is rewarded and arguing is okay, it’s a good thing, it’s not personal. You’re just trying to come up with a better solution. I identify with a lot of the qualities that are here, but I also realize that this is not representative of most of the world.”

Still, though, Silicon Valley is where Sean built his family and founded his current business, Qualified.com, which is making its mark in the new and emerging field of conversational marketing applications. Qualified — which is an app built to alert your sales team when qualified leads are visiting your site — offers a full stack of meeting tools that you can use to engage your customer through chat, phone calls, or other conversational interfaces. 

On this episode of Mission Daily, Sean talks about his life in the Valley, the importance of finding the right business partner and building the right culture, the stages of building success, and the role luck plays into it all.

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Quotes by Sean:

8:30 – “Don’t get too stuck here in Silicon Valley. There’s a lot of greatness and I love it here. I love the dynamic here where risk is rewarded and arguing is okay, it’s a good thing, it’s not personal. You’re just trying to come up with a better solution. I identify with a lot of the qualities that are here, but I also realize that this is not representative of most of the world.”

 11:20 – “We just kept coming back to this concept of there’s so much automation that’s happening, there’s so much change, there’s so much data, how is this going to impact the way that people work. We just kept focusing on these different solutions that involved helping companies really figure out in reality what is automation good for and where should you be spending your human resources… they’re expensive, but they’re also your most powerful, so how do you map people to your most important prospects and your most important customers? How do you leverage automation for all of the other things so you’re getting maximum efficiency across your business?”

25:40 – “Choosing your co-founder and the first employees in your company, you’re not going to make more important choices. Not everyone is in that position to do that because in your life it’s hard for two people to be in the same spot at the same time, to be in the same mindset, to have their life in the same place that they can actually invest so much in something together.”

40:00 – “I get very grumpy if I don’t have some outlet. Right now it’s tennis. I picked up tennis at 45 and I’m terrible, but I love it. I love to pick something and learn about the game, strategy, and how to get better. I love to pick something and start at the bottom, and just work my way up.”

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Episode 286