Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bob Dipasquale of HumorQ Talks about His Startup

Bob Dipasquale of HumorQ Talks about His Startup

Where are you from originally?

I was the youngest of six children in my family and I was born in Buffalo, New York in 1960. It was a bit of a bumpy start since my dad died when I was three of heart disease, and my mom died when I was 10 from cancer. Soon afterwards, my brothers and I went to live with my oldest sister in Vermont. I continued to start my own family there until November 2006 when we moved to Round Rock. I’m guessing that’s the longest, saddest, and most complicated answer you’ve ever gotten for that question.

What university did you go to?

I guess I want to add to the short list of successful people that didn’t go. I worked as a co-op for IBM when I was in high school, and soon after graduating I got a job in their manufacturing area. I taught myself some software skills, and now after 32 years with them, I’m working remote as an application developer and release engineer for their semiconductor plant in Burlington Vermont. I’ve learned a lot more than software of course by being an IBMer.

What brought you to Austin?

A good Google Earth shot right about now would tell that story best. Winter is long and brutal there and my wife and I really enjoy warm weather. The sister that acted as my guardian ended up here and her grown children and families are here too. Housing, college for my teenage girls, and opportunity are big additional reasons that made Austin a great choice.

What is the idea behind your startup?

I’ve always had a side of me that enjoys writing comedy. One of the ways I enjoy exercising those muscles is to participate in caption contests. I really started to get disappointed though at some of the winners and finalists being selected, so I put on my application developer hat and built one myself. It uses a selection method I call crowd-sifting where members judge other members, and the best rise to the top. As I developed it, I realized we can provide feedback for every captioner, and actually put a reasonable metric on how funny someone is. So does just that.

What need does it fulfill?

A lot of people would say they don’t need to put a number on how funny they are. There’s still a lot of people that say they don’t need to put a number on how smart they are either. But, there’s a large population of people that are curious and want to know. If we can create a widely accepted humorq, we’ve established a valuable metric for many industries involving creativity and humor.

What exactly does your product do?

HumorQ measures two things for a member, the popularity of their captions, and their ability to recognize popular captions when they are judging the captions of others. It uses an algorithm that calculates and maintains a humorq for each member which is a number between 1 and 200. I’ve built it such that your humorq requires maintenance. Just because you we’re funny last year, doesn’t mean you’re funny now.

Who is it for?

It’s for creative directors, advertising executives, script writers, greeting card writers, singles, bored housewives, and everyone with a handheld device and five minutes for a creative exercise.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up a business?

I would use the word ‘is’ rather than ‘was’. I’ve built a working prototype, and a very modest membership base, but I’m finding the most challenging part to be building a team.

What is the next step for you and your startup?

Building a team is the obvious next step, and as I mentioned a significant challenge. I think there are probably many readers that see the merit and potential of this idea. At the same time, they see the captain of the ship with no degree, no startup experience, and oh yeah … no money, and their better judgment sends them in another direction. I need to find equity partners that can fill those significant voids. I need person(s) that are smart enough to know that most ideas are dead without the right team, but that there are some ideas that quite frankly don’t deserve to be dead. I’m ready to give up all but control in exchange for a team of people that can put this together with me and bring the capital needed to get going. Meet with me, and I’ll show you my business plan and that I have what it takes to grow this idea with the right teammates and vendors. So visit the web site , and contact me (Bob DiPasquale) by email

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Simply said. Don’t give up.

What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?

I took the Startup Business Class offered by the Austin Entrepreneur Network. It was extremely eye opening, and I made some significant contacts there. It taught me about the many facets and levels of startups, and exposed me to a group of people all nurturing ideas at different steps along the journey. I’m very grateful for what that experience extended to me.

Best regards,
Hall T.

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