Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer

CEO at AirPR

Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer is the Co-founder and CEO of AirPR, a technology solution to measure the impact of PR. He was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Shasta Ventures focused on consumer internet and the social graph.
1. Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.) I’d say my “everyday heroine” is my Chief Strategy Officer Rebekah because she provides much of the connective tissue among our team. She’s a huge part of our company’s culture. Lofty heroes like Warren Buffett and Peter Drucker are great but there’s usually someone around us that deserves an accolade, so cheers to my team for being a crew of discreet superheroes. 2. What’s the single best piece of business advice (unorthodox tips welcome!) that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why? Follow your passion, not the money train. If you’re not passionate about what you do, it will be nearly impossible to be successful. Passion can help you become the very best at something. And if you are the very best at that one thing, you will make money doing it. 3. What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too? Building the type of product that does everything, but not one thing particularly well. Before we got to where we are today, we built a marketplace that connected startups with different options for PR representation. It did everything from creating contracts to allowing users to rate different vendors. Later on, we discovered that there was a greater need for further development of our PR analytics tool, so we shifted focus away from the marketplace. When we focused tightly on what our core constituency needed, we got much more traction than when we tried to do a lot of different things under one umbrella brand. 4. What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why? On an ideal day, I go for a run to clear my mind. Getting my blood pumping gives me time to think about the day ahead so when I get to our office, I’m ready to focus. Like I said, this is an ideal day — don’t we all wish we were always our super-selves? 5. What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started? Keep your burn low. It seems like an obvious answer but so many entrepreneurs don’t have enough money saved up in order to start a company. It takes more than you think to do that. Be far more financially conservative than you want to be. 6. Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level? Identify things you’re doing that others could be doing better, and have them take that stuff off your plate. 7. What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business? I know I’m succeeding when I talk to someone from another company at an event and it just so happens that they’re using our software. I was talking to Coupa’s CEO recently, and he asked where I was from. When I said AirPR, he was excited and said he uses our tool and they love it. He went on and on. That was the coolest thing!