We got an exclusive interview with the CEO of Flux Chargers, Alejandro Rioja. He is a very passionate entrepreneur and has also invested in a lot of successful startup companies. Here is the interview with this talented young man:
So Alejandro Rioja, tell us a bit about yourself
You can call me “Ale”.
I was born and raised in Bolivia, and now I am a Computer Science senior at UCLA. I started Flux Chargers which is one of the best rated portable phone chargers in the world (according to Mashable, Engadget, Digital Trends and Yahoo Tech).
I enjoy doing internet marketing, e-commerce and running companies.
You can learn more about me on my personal website.
How was the experience growing up in Bolivia? Any interesting childhood experiences which gave rise to the entrepreneurial spark in you?
Since I was young I knew I wanted to start my own company. My dad has his own construction company, so that’s where I got the entrepreneurial spirit from. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I was going to make but after a handful of summer internships at a couple companies, I knew the corporate ladder wasn’t for me.
People ask me what the main differences between the US and Bolivia in terms of business/entrepreneurship are. First of all, Bolivia’s technology is limited and very expensive. Also access to funding is scarce. While this can allow you to create clones of apps without too much competition (i.e. Amazon for Bolivia or Uber in Bolivia), the market is much smaller and thus your projected revenue and growth. Besides that, finding (tech) talent is much easier in the US giving the high density of highly-skilled people that immigrate to the US.
In terms of my upbringing, it was troubling to live in a country where ~15% of males and ~30% females in rural areas don’t receive any formal education (As reported by the Ministry of Education in 2004 and Unicef in 2017) and many children under 5 have to work in the streets just to survive. This really made me appreciate how fortunate I was to have a family that prioritized (and could afford) a private education and that made sure to put food on my plate. The meager educational opportunities (and many other problems that I see with Bolivia like corruption and lack of investments in technology infrastructure) have disgusted me since I was 15 years old. One of my main goals/dreams is to be able to come back to Bolivia once I prove myself as an entrepreneur and run for president there. I want to run for president around the year 2050, I hope it’s not too late then.
Your website http://www.alejandrorioja.com/ looks quite cool and techy and gives a neat presentation of your technical skills. Tell us about what you had in mind while creating it?
I originally created my website to be an online resume that I could send around to land an internship. It was meant to be a more visual way to showcase my skills and also attract recruiters.
Once I decided to pursue entrepreneurship and learned about content marketing and SEO, I switched the content and design of my site to promote my personal brand and attract customers. Now, everyone that visits any one of my sites (alejandrorioja.com, youngslacker.com and majorkeys.us) enters a content funnel which eventually leads to converting as a customer for either my portable chargers or any marketing or development services I offer.
You are the CEO of Flux Ventures. Can you tell us a bit about this venture of yours?
Flux Ventures is my baby and the company that I hope to take public within the next 10 years.
Flux Ventures is essentially a holdings company that owns a few Flux-related subsidiaries. The current subsidiaries are:
- Flux Chargers, our portable chargers for phones and laptops (which are ranked #1 in 75 countries)
- Flux.LA, an SEO, design and marketing agency (which consults for Fortune 500 companies)
- Flux Capital, our VC fund.
- Young Slacker, my snapchat influencer account.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of the Flux Ventures story. In it, I go into more depth about what sparked each venture and also what other companies I plan to create in the near future.
There are a lot of interesting stories about how people come up with names for their ventures. Can you tell us the story behind the name of your venture or maybe some interesting story related to your logo?
The name “Flux” is a combination of these 3 things:
- First, we wanted to have a catchy and easy to remember name to achieve strong word-of-mouth advertising.
- Second, flux from the Latin fluxus means flow. In the case of Flux Chargers, it means the flow of electrons from our portable charger to your smartphone. Also, for Flux Ventures, it signifies the flow of ideas.
- Lastly, flux is a pun on f**k. When your phone dies, you say “f**k”. We want you to say flux.
We used the golden ratio for the dimensions of the logo, since we know that that will make the logo pleasing to the eye. Moreover, if you look closely into the [flux] logo you will notice that the 4 letters are green, which is an analogy to 4 battery bars. The two brackets complete the battery shape.
Any crazy entrepreneur stories or experiences to share?
This one is kinda crazy.
My co-founder Miles Anthony tattooed the [flux] logo on his buttocks to show the dedication that he has to the Flux dream. In his blog, he explains the story in detail and what pushed him to do it. His tattoo story triggered many founders to get their startups tatted and got us some interesting press. I livestreamed the whole tattooing on my facebook.
Am I getting a tattoo? No way.
Your venture has raised over $10 million in venture capital. How has the experience been and what advice would you give to someone who wants to seek capital for their venture?
Flux Ventures is completely self-funded.
Actually, the funding that you are referring to was for another company I am working on which is in stealth mode (check back in 2018), so I can’t tell you much about it but I can speak about the fundraising process a bit.
Although I am very wary when it comes to valuation vs. value when it comes to fundraising, and ideally you’re like Mahbod Moghadam and are able to make your company blow up with little money, fundraising is important for many startups. Some CEOs argue that this is their main task. I think the CEO should focus on building (and using) the product first.
Fundraising can take quite a while and it should always be done with the help of a good lawyer. If you don’t have connections with a VC, you can try cold calling or cold emailing. For this to work (it seldom does), you need to have a solid pitch, an A/B tested email marketing campaign, and luck. A warm introduction will at least get your foot in the door of an investor and will be more likely to end up in you receiving capital. Even better is to build a product that is so popular that people and investors just flock to your door.
Negotiating term sheets with investors is important but it is better to get money from the right investor. If you’re building a medical device, a seasoned investor with experience in the field is someone you will want to have on your board.
Are you looking for funding and have the next billion dollar idea? Pitch it to me on facebook. If I can’t invest, I might be able to refer you to someone else.
Has there been a time when you thought you should give up and what brought you back on track after going through this mindset?
I am very stubborn and very rarely quit on things. However, the thoughts of self-doubt and life’s purpose come up in my mind every now and then. The way I deal with this is by having an honest conversation with myself and visualizing the Flux dream that I want to achieve.
Tell us about your team and the work culture at Flux Ventures.
The core Flux team is made up of 4 people:
Miles Anthony is the Head of Product and the person I started the company with. He designs our products and directs our Manufacturing.
Kate Anoufrieva is our first hire and handles our operations. She is very methodical and has great attention to detail.
Max Bronstein is a savage and is the person that comes up with different ideas for our next ventures, marketing and investing strategies.
The word that best describes our culture is a made up word that we use a lot at Flux. That word is baus. A BAUS describes someone that is confident, hustles and looks out for good business opportunities, regardless of any current limitations (lack of resources, knowledge, connections) that he or she might have. Every day, we strive to make a BAUS move that pushes our business forward.
Who is the one person you look up to as your inspiration to do business?
I have many idols that I hope to meet one day. Anyone that is a BAUS is an inspiration to me.
My short and incomplete list includes: Richard Branson, Niel Patel, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, anyone in the PayPal mafia, and many more.
The people in the list do one thing better than anyone else in the world, whether it is product design, marketing or culture building. I like to read their books and follow them on social media to emulate the things I think they do well.
What is your future vision with Flux Ventures?
Flux Ventures’ vision is to become a large corporation similar to Virgin (but bigger and better).
I envision Flux becoming a household brand that people use in their day-to-day activities to enhance their lives. My ream is to have Flux Ventures create 100 companies in 100 industries.
Any message for the readers of our website or young entrepreneurs in general?
You shouldn’t become an entrepreneur just because you want glamour or because that’s IN these days. The first step of entrepreneurship is finding a need in the market for which you can deliver a superior solution. For your product to succeed it must provide significantly more value (whether through better pricing, more features, easier-to-use interface, etc) than the current solutions. If you can’t create value, then you will have a hard time convincing users to sign up or buy.
Entrepreneurship is a long journey and a journey that you shouldn’t go through alone. A lot of the time, it seems like it is you against the world, but in reality there are a lot of people out there that can and are willing to help you out because they understand the struggle. If you need help with your venture message me on facebook and I will be happy to help in any way I can.
Thats Alejandro Rioja for you guys! We’re sure that this interview must be quite an inspiring experience for you all. For more such interviews make sure you like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.