Dan Kieran is the CEO of Unbound.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I’m a writer originally, but the perfect storm of the financial crash of 2008 and the emergence of Amazon has the biggest player when it came to selling books which led me to start Unbound with two of my friends and fellow authors — John Mitchinson and Justin Pollard. For me, it was from necessity as much as anything. I needed a job. I’m not what you might consider a typical entrepreneur.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Up early with my son and in the office between 8:30 to 9:00 AM. Unless I have a breakfast meeting, which I do quite often as they are my favorite meetings, then I’ll get in closer to ten. When it’s not snowing as it is at present, I cycle which takes about an hour. This is massively important to me because it means I get exercise in as part of my normal routine. I don’t have to take time out to do it. It takes as long to cycle in as it does to get the train and tube. I always try and go a for a walk at lunchtime too and aim to get home before my son’s bedtime. I never work at home if I can help it.
WHAT DOES YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
Slack keeps me in touch with everyone at work, we have a small office in Dublin as well as a bigger one in London and lots of people who work part-time. But the most important productivity ‘tool’ I use is the oldest one. Talking to people. I’m not a fan of email. So much nuance is lost. It can be functional for a quick response to a question, which is why I also like Slack, but humans are complex animals. People are unintentionally more defensive in my experience at their keyboard than they might be in person. Face to face conversations are always the best way to resolve tricky situations.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
Walking in nature is the best thing. It never fails.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
“Follow the man who seeks the truth, run from the man who has found it” — Vaclav Havel. I like it because the minute you think you know all the answers you are doomed. The journey never stops. Stay humble and keep learning.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
I’ve just discovered Amazon have synched eBooks with audio so you can read and then listen to a book depending on what you’re doing. On the one hand, this terrifies me — you can imagine a future when this is the dominant way people consume books — but for me personally, I prefer to read books rather than consume them, and that means having a physical copy in my hands.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
Getting bigger while maintaining the quality of what we do. It’s a constant challenge.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
My biggest piece of advice is to just get on and do it. Fear of failure can stop you from starting, but it’s only once you have launched that you begin to find out what your business is and how it really works. Planning is important, but it will only get you so far. The other thing I would say is that you shouldn’t be intimidated by the famous brands in the sector you’re working in or the big names in your industry. Very few of them have started their own thing from nothing. This doesn’t mean you will be successful, but it means while you should show them respect you should never allow yourself to feel intimidated. If any of them did start the company they are running then ask them for advice. They will see their own journey in you and might be prepared to help.