Punch Profiles: People to Know / 8 Questions with Micha Weinblatt co-founder of betterific and Crooked Monkey

Micha Weinblatt

One of my favorite people in the area is Micha Weinblatt (above). There are several reasons for this.  The kid (he’s really not a kid, but I always think of him as a bright, earnest, hard working, do-gooding, honest kid) embodies so many qualities that truly make up an entrepreneur, a businessman, a friend and an inspiration. When he and I first met a few years ago, we sat outside of the U Street Starbucks playing the conversational dance of what’s what and who’s who and what could we possibly do for each other. Pamela’s Punch was young and Crooked Monkey tee shirts, Micha’s company, was garnering popularity and earning a brand name for itself. Within a short amount of time, it felt like Micha was kin and I knew he was going to go far. I had faith in him.

Later, he gave a presentation during a competition, the Cupid’s Cup, that was being judged (with the prize being a fat check) by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center. Micha was the popular audience vote and placed for the overall.  Again, I knew he was on his way.  Always one for a bright idea, an innovative thought, follow through, responsiveness and creative thinking, Micha is one of the guys who you can count on and who will “show up”, which in this town, isn’t always an easy find.

We are truly proud to have worked with Micha over the years in several capacities and even more thrilled to be able to have him as a Punch Profile for his new company, betterific.

Pamela’s Punch: Tell us about your background. We know you are Terrapin!

Micha Weinblatt: Born and raised in the mean suburbs of Potomac, MD, I went to school at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. In May of 2005, I simultaneously graduated from the University of Maryland (Let’s go Terps), and launched Crooked Monkey. 16th and U has been my home for the last 5 years and I moved (temporarily) to Philadelphia to join the DreamIt Ventures incubator with my new startup, betterific.

PP: What qualities do you believe a true entrepreneur must have in order to succeed?

MW: Everyone’s got an idea. Only a select few ever act on that concept. Taking that first step is the mark of a true entrepreneur. Stop talking, and start acting!

Being resourceful is key. As an entrepreneur you’re short on cash, and low on manpower. So you need to figure out how to do more with less. How can you get in front of big brands with low budgets and little traction? How can you convince top talent to work with you, even though you can’t offer the perks and pay that they’re used to?

Entrepreneurs experience tremendous highs, and substantial lows. So to be able to keep your head up and motivated to move forward is a key characteristic.

PP: Congratulations on betterific.  Share with us what betterific is.

MW: We crowdsource ideas to make products better, because customer feedback sucks.  If you want to suggest that Chipotle start using whole wheat tortillas, you’d go to their site, and send an e-mail that will get skimmed and ignored. Likely nothing will ever happen. That’s not right. We make the process more effective, transparent, and social. Check it out for yourself, www.betterific.com. It’s super fun and addictive!

PP: Explain to us what crowdsourcing and its positives and drawbacks.  What is a good example of business using crowdsourcing?

MW: 
Crowdsourcing has tremendous benefits. Even though betterific’s only been live for a week, we’ve seen firsthand the benefits of crowdsourcing solutions. Crowdsourcing allows an infinitely larger pool of people to look at the same issue, but from totally different lenses. For instance, our first “betterif” was: “Wouldn’t it be better if fitted bed sheets and length and width indicators.” Sounds like a no-brainer to me, but why has that feature not been implemented?! It would make all of our lives so much better! Another example is the other day as we were moving into Philadelphia, the betterific team came up with three betterifs for U-Haul. When you let more people into the process, you get new, creative solutions to problems you may or may not have known you had.

Some of the drawbacks of crowdsourcing are that the quality of content is not always the highest. We plan on spending a great deal of time on building our community so that the content is “actionable” and free of kvetching. And we’ve implemented a social voting system, which ensures that top content can rise to the top.

PP: You had a brilliant way of using crowdsourcing to even find a name for this new venture. Tell us about that.

MW: As a crowd sourcing platform, we thought it’d be fun to crowd source the name for our company. So we took a sampling of our 200 friends and family and asked them to help us with our name. The crowd chose betterific. We liked the outcome.

PP: 

What’s new with Crooked Monkey?

MW: Crooked Monkey is doing big things. 4 months ago we launched our new with a focus on the user experience, while still maintaining the Crooked Monkey voice. Check out the our t-shirts, and let us know what you think. (Got a suggestion, submit it to betterific!)

PP: You’ve been starting and running businesses since 2002, how have you seen the startup landscape change over the past 10 years? 

What is the most exciting thing you’ve seen and or anticipate with regard to the Washington DC startup, technology, entrepreneurial worlds?

MW:  When I got out of school in 2005, I struggled to find like minded entrepreneurial types. The landscape has truly changed, there are a number of incubators located right in DC and there are a lot of people in my peer group who are doing a lot to help feed this energy, like Peter Corbett.  The ecosystem is much different now, there are plenty of networking groups and there’s a great appreciation for these startups.

PP: What advice do you have for anyone coming out of school or even out of a job who wants to start a business?

MW: Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. It’s trendy, but that’s not a good enough reason to drop your job and jump into the great abyss. Don’t get me wrong, I love being an entrepreneur. It’s got tremendous upsides, most notably that you choose your own path. So if you’ve got the bug, try it. Drop what you’re doing, stop talking about your idea, build your team, develop a prototype and SELL SELL SELL!

About Pamela Sorensen:
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.
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