CENTERPORT, New York, Feb. 26
Interview conducted by Andrew Wroblewski
Chris Monteleone, 39, is CEO and co-founder of Centerport’s startup social media company, Sweigh. Monteleone and his business partner, co-founder and COO, Jamie Proctor, 40, have had their business up and running since October of 2013.
Sweigh, available in both an app and widget, measures sentiment on the internet by polling its users with a question or statement and then providing “A” or “B” answers through either its client. The company maintains a user base of about 25,000 and has plans to expand even further in the coming months.
Sweigh is available for download on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. To learn more about Sweigh visit http://www.sweigh.com.
Q: With Sweigh, a home-grown, Town of Huntington startup, what was the greatest challenge in first establishing the company and making a name for yourselves?
A: I don’t think [the challenge] ever ends. Every day when you’re building something from scratch there’s always some hurdle that you have to overcome. I think financing is definitely at the top of the list [though]. What we learned through the process – and this is my first full-funded startup – people don’t really invest in an idea. They invest in a product that’s coupled with an idea. Our first thing was that we had to self-fund and build a minimum viable product, which was a big decision. It’s not a small amount of money and you have to really believe in yourself, your ability to execute and believe in the idea to actually spend your money against it. I think that’s the first true test of whether you believe in what you’re doing. Once investors see that and they see how much you’ve put into it, it changes the conversation [for the better].
Q: If there was one piece of advice you could give yourself back in 2013 when Sweigh first got started, what would it be?
A: That’s a hard one because I have a lot of things that I may have done differently but I wouldn’t have learned anything if I didn’t do those things. The two most important [pieces] of advice that I would give to anybody in building a company like we are is: Think about your users and think about your investors. Those are the two things that are going to literally dictate your success; whether you can get money and whether you can get users. If you don’t put yourself in the position of those people, you can’t build a great product and you can’t articulate why you deserve an investment. Getting users to believe [in your product] will drive investors to you.
Q: Is there something special about Huntington that’s allowed Sweigh to have success?
A: There’s a talent pool here in Huntington, I think, that is just like Jamie and I: [People] who have had some success in the business world, but that are maybe looking for a new out and always dreamed about running their own company. Through this process of building the company and meeting people in the town, I never realized how much talent there really is at a senior level in this area – and it’s helped us incredibly. The fact that we’re here in Huntington has actually helped the company as much as any other contacts that I’ve had in my 15 years of working. I would not understate how ironically important it’s been that we’ve had the company in this area, that we live in the area and have friends in the area. We have the ability to ask them, not only for favors, but for business opportunities just by sheer geography.
Q: What’s a day in the life of a CEO like?
A: Well, it used to be getting on the train at 6, 7 o’clock in the morning, rolling into the office in Manhattan at 8:30 a.m. – now, I get to the office at 8:30 a.m., but I have a four-minute commute. That being said, I was at my office until 1 a.m. last night. I’m not complaining at all about that, but it’s relentless and you can never just relax. It’s not that you’re a basket case all day, but you’re constantly thinking, the wheels are constantly spinning; you’re always thinking, “What’s the next thing I have to do to make this company survive and thrive?” And those ideas comes to you at any time so whether it means you have to send an email or reach out to someone that you haven’t talked to in a year – it’s just always on your brain. But if you’re motivated and you want to succeed, there’s not a lot of effort being exerted. The work-life balance is different [too] because I’m spending more time with my family than I did before [Sweigh] but I would say I’m doing as much, if not more, work on a daily basis than I ever did.
Q: What does the future hold for Sweigh?
A: We’re at a point now where we’re in a building stage; we’re activating our company. The next step is to really retain the users, retain our investors, start to drive some ad sales and then it’s truly the growth. The growth stage comes probably in six-12 months from now and that’s when we start to see revenue coming in and more hiring going on. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we will probably have to open another office in the city. I think [Sweigh] has a great opportunity to be a part of the conversation of measuring sentiment on the internet – and that’s the ultimate goal of the company: How do we measure sentiment? Today it’s with an app and a widget; tomorrow it could be something else that we merge with or buy or develop.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015; A10)