Mentored, episode 8, Jonathan González

One of the best rated mentors by P18 startups, Jonathan González has been a founder, consultant, and mentor to companies on the Island. Jonathan was the first Puerto Rican founder to participate in Techstars. His expertise is in UX/UI. He talks to Sebastián about the importance of focusing on the core of your product, adapting to your consumers and more.

On Blockchain, its importance, and what makes it an interesting tool

Imagine a well distributed database that is very hard to hack, modify and it is publicly accessible. When it comes to the insurance world and its problem, blockchain can solve many of them. In our case, I am working with Raincoat to redesign the way people interact with catastrophic insurance. As of June, 7 out 10 insurers had not be paid at all, individual and businesses. Not all insurance has to be that way. There are parametrics insurance, like life insurance. There’s an event, that even happens, then I pay. That can be applied to the catastrophe insurance, to automatize it and be paid in 24 hours. Since it is highly regulated, the world of insurance needs transparency. If policies were available through blockchain, insurance companies would have all the information they need available. There are many components that give more transparency to the insurance world. In a way we eliminate the middleman. It’s all automated, all online, meaning cheaper better rates for you.

On the importance of customer discovery

A common mistake that I see in long time founders is that they don’t talk to the users at all.

If you’re saying there’s a problem, you have to go to where the users are and hear them say, “well, I’m interested [in the solution, your product].” In my case, it was the frustration I saw on everyone that had insurance; there was resentment toward the companies. I have yet to find someone that says they liked their experience. When people said, “I’d do anything not to have to deal with this bs again”, that’s where the idea of doing something different came to be.

Instead of adjusting their product, they start fighting the user. It’s the worst thing you can do, the product has found use, go with the flow. Adapt it.

On common founders mistakes

What’s interesting to me, is that I’ve seen both experienced and inexperienced founders make the same mistakes. These are relevant, whether you have experience or none at all:

  1. They design the product and expect it to be used a certain way, but the consumers use it differently. And, instead of adjusting their product, they start fighting the user. It’s the worst thing you can do, the product has found use, go with the flow. Adapt it.
  2. As a founder you have to think, what’s the purpose of your product, what makes your product useful. It’s easy to spot when you know what you’re looking for. You have to identify the real reason people use your technology and make that gap shorter, easier, better by sales and marketing, outreach, technological, options, etc.
  3. Rather than focusing on the core of the product the really hard challenges, I have had founders come to me with an idea and instead of talking about the user experience, they ask me about their website, their logo. That’s the sexy thing. You have to focus on the core of your product. What is the problem that you’re solving? What are the specifics points the consumers are using in your product?

There are few companies that can validate both design and functionality. Apple is one on of the few that does the design and functionality, and even they fail in functionality sometimes.

There are companies that are really flashy and when you get the product, it sucks. I like Amazon because it’s still pretty ugly, crowded, hasn’t change that much, it does everything else absolutely excellent. They focused on the thing that matters.

The startup culture is “always killing it, awesome 100% of the time” and, if you keep that up for 3,4,5 years, eventually you start bullshitting yourself. The main reason most investors and advisors say you need cofounder, it’s because when shit hits the fan, you need someone you can hug it out with.

On his experience as a founder

When people ask me what I’ve learn the most as a founder, is that it’s so fundamentally important to know your limitations, what drives you, and to keep in balance your emotional stability. It’s very important that you know what type of entrepreneur you are: some people love to have businesses and they’d be happy doing anything, others love technology, some love to solve problems that affect them. You have to know because you’re going to receive a lot of feedback and there will always be some bias.

You have to take care of yourself emotionally, take time to rest. This is marathon and if you don’t reset, you could make decisions that seem rational at the moment but are based out of fear and rejection. Take a founder that hasn’t had a salary in three years sacrificing family, friends, not going out, I can guarantee you that they won’t be making the right decisions for their startup, they’re going to be based out of hunger, out of necessity. The startup culture is “always killing it, awesome 100% of the time” and, if you keep that up for 3,4,5 years, eventually you start bullshitting yourself. The main reason most investors and advisors say you need cofounder, it’s because when shit hits the fan, you need someone you can hug it out with.

Book Recommendations

  1. Meditations Marcus Aurelius — He was a powerful emperor of Rome and it blows my mind, that he wrote a journal. That’s what this book is and it’s fascinating to see a crazy leader like that giving advice to himself.
  2. The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday — stoicism, struggles of different founders and famous leader. It suggests using obstacle mechanism propel forward
  3. Zero To One by Peter Thiel — I like it because it’s contrarian. I don’t recommend it by itself, but with another startup book. It’s good to see different opinions.

Mentored is a Facebook Live Series, where parallel18 visiting mentors share their knowledge, experiences and advice. Watch Live every Friday at 10 a.m. To rewatch this episode, go here.

*Translated and edited for the blog

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Parallel18 is a startup accelerator that represents a unique gateway for global startups to scale from Puerto Rico.