We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.
Meet: Dana Meushar, the CEO of Private Secretary. As a busy mother and businesswoman, Dana realized she was spending more time planning times to meet her professional and private contacts than actually meeting with them. A self-proclaimed “geek, inventor at heart” and Star Trek devotee, Dana set out to solve this problem. She created Private Secretary, an automated scheduling system that uses patented technology to schedule meetings, conferences and tasks, within seconds, without sharing calendars and ensures that your calendar is up-to-date. The app uses Artificial Intelligence to determine the best meeting times by factoring in each person’s habits, preferences and even their estimated time of arrival to the meeting destination.
Private Secretary also includes venue recommendations for meetings, a “Clear My Day” option, and personalized invitations for events.
Of course being a woman in a male-dominated field Dana has encountered her share of challenges trying to launch her app, including investors who prefer to speak directly to her husband because he’s a man.
Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Dana Meushar: I grew up in a very innovative home; my father was a leading scientist. He specialized in Electro-Optics and engineering and developed impressive technologies in night vision. The latest was related to the Israeli satellite “Ofeq.”
Our family trips usually included visits to factory production lines, [paying] great respect to the behind-the-scenes engineering of the final product.
We were a very artistic family, and I learned to think outside the box in order to find better solutions. Since I was a little girl, I saw potential solutions and always enjoyed helping friends with innovative ideas for their businesses. As a James Bond fan, I always liked the scenes where “Q” would present James with gadgets. I always thought that “Q” had the most wonderful job and hoped to one day become the female version of “Q.”
I believe creativity is one of humanity’s greatest abilities.
Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?
Meushar: The passion to create and to touch others at their daily activities had always been a childhood dream of mine. As a mother and a businesswoman, I understand the need for a “superhero” assistant to help get us through the challenge of balancing and scheduling both [our personal and business] worlds. I also wish to help all of those businesspeople who do not have the privilege of having a personal assistant.
When I started working on Private Secretary’s technology, I loved the idea that I could help people around the world save time and further connect them to other people. We often hear that technology makes us less sociable in real life, and I enjoy thinking how I can help, through my technology, make people more social in real-time meetings.
Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?
Meushar: Not yet, but I believe entrepreneurs should be open-minded and flexible, depending on changes in the field or in their companies. We are currently at the raising capital stage and looking for a potential partner. We are open to potential collaborations.
Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?
Meushar: From the beginning, when I understood the potential growth and market needs of technology, my first step was to apply for patent applications and legally protect my intellectual properties. Many inventors and entrepreneurs do not find the budget or time to do so. Unfortunately, the intellectual property rights on mobile and Web technologies are not respected as much as in other fields if they are not legally protected. This could lead to catastrophic results in the long term. We should encourage technological innovations in legitimate and appropriate ways, furthering more patents, which are the closest assets to real estate in the tech world.
Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?
Meushar: Once you have a good version of your prototype, rely on and listen to customer feedback. Ongoing research and development will lead to the [best] product.
Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction?
Meushar: Today’s technology is all about being available worldwide and being personalized. For example, the smartphone’s operational systems can be personalized to fit every consumer. We took that concept one step further: We wish to be the new generation of social networks that combines virtual communications with real-time activities such as meetings. Private consumers, as well enterprises and SMBs, will use Private Secretary’s innovative technology, and using it will become a natural, common habit for every activity you wish to perform, including daily tasks such as going to the bank or dry cleaners. All appointments, professional as well social, will be scheduled through Private Secretary.
Lesonsky: What’s you favorite book?
Meushar: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (I’m also inspired by the musical version by Jeff Wayne) and Powershift by Alvin Toffler. And I must confess my passion for comics and superheroes (Marvel, DC, All Star Comics).
Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?
Meushar: Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” [Entrepreneurship] is a very long journey for which you must keep thinking positively and use creativity to turn any difficulty you encounter along the way into an advantage. That’s the test of the entrepreneur.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.