I walk into Trend Hunter’s office on Soho Street in Toronto expecting a receptionist and a waiting area.
Instead I have unexpectedly set foot into the heart of the company: 30 or 40 people hard at work glance up to see what the disturbance is. Some then sneak a quick peek at the projected image on the wall—graphs and metrics of the latest activity on Trend Hunter’s website—before getting back to work.
I’m then directed to Jeremy Gutsche, the creator of social network and cutting edge innovation and trend curator Trend Hunter. As we take seats in an interview room, he produces a copy of his book Exploiting Chaos, and draws my name out in block letters in it using his blue pen.
This is unusual.
BUILT ON IDEAS
As we start the conversation, Gutsche explains his journey. “The corporate success route was on track, but for me it was frustrating because it’s not what I wanted at all," he says. "I just wanted to be an entrepreneur.
"Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, I would come home and I would be teaching myself to code and do graphic design. I built Trend Hunter as a place where people around the world could share their business ideas and I hoped I would get my business idea out of that. As Trend Hunter took off, I never really had to pick.”
This part of Gutsche’s war story is reminiscent of Casie Stewart’s advice on hustling. As Gutsche put the finishing touches on the first iteration of Trend Hunter, and ran out of family and friends to coerce into using it, he got his first “small wins” through press like MTV and got his first active users on Trend Hunter. (Since when was MTV considered a small win?) Additionally, he emailed his active members almost daily, and then hired the first active member to be a contributor.
Gutsche points out an advantage of retaining a job while making the leap into a venture: “By pushing everything as hard as I could in my spare hours, and then hiring someone else to help me at the same time, I was able to be a little bit riskier in some of the things I would try.” His job provided him with the cash flow to try riskier tactics, and should they have failed he would still have a source of income.
A VIRTUAL CULT
Since day one, Trend Hunter has been virtual. “Our first editor was in Vancouver,” says Gutsche. “Our second one was in San Diego. We’ve always been used to that kind of vibe.”
He attributes the success of keeping the virtual team together to his site: team members want to come to the website to reconnect and find out what those new trends are, naturally. “The second part of it is that Trend Hunter is a culture machine,” Gutsche adds. “Because we have so many people that we’re training, we are constantly trying to invent our culture and make them experience Trend Hunter to its fullest.”
This includes weekly beer parties at the office, and monthly trips to cool places (like dining in the dark or taking part in a cupcake war). I’m impressed; many companies fail to keep virtual team members as engaged as the young Trend Hunter has.
“I did five all-nighters in one year,” Gutsche admits. “And I had many hundred-hour weeks.” That’s remarkable. I get tired off six hours of sleep. I tell Gutsche this, and he replies with a hearty laugh. I need to know his secret—how does he do it?
“Some people are motivated differently,” explains Gutsche. “I know myself, my top drive and my highest energy level for something creative does come between 11pm and 4am. So whenever I get a cool idea on the site, it will be a day I end up having another all-nighter because I get so much more productive. I feel five times more productive in those hours."
“I remember interviewing Tim Ferriss, the Four Hour Workweek guy, and I’d always worked like this whether it was school or Trend Hunter," he continues. "And I remember I always asked people, ‘What resets yourself to be creative? What’s your ritual?’
“He’s the only guy that had an answer that I ended up clicking with. He realized he’s productive at night, but what he did differently—which I now do—is he totally embraced it. His answer was something like: ‘At 11:30 at night, I get my espresso machine ready. I turn on the TV and put it on a volume level in the background where it won’t distract me but it’s loud enough that it creates a white noise. I down two Red Bulls and then I power through three hours of work. And then I crash.’ It was something programmatic where I thought, ‘You know what? That’s exactly what I’m gonna do!’”
After the interview, I flip through his book Exploiting Chaos. Underneath my name inscribed by Gutsche, were the words he wrote: “Break Rules!” Gutsche is one of the few people that have lived by this maxim, and has enjoyed much success as a result of faithfully following through on it.
Thanks for the interview and the advice, Jeremy!