Entrepreneur of the Week - John Bracken

Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, John Bracken, Sid Banerjee and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey.

John Bracken is a business development executive and product visionary who has a passion for building voice and web communication products. John has played key roles in several of our generation’s most-influential web products, including Evite, AIM, and Patch. John is currently the Co-Founder and CEO of Speek.com, a simple, web-based service for conference calling based on a personal link (speek.com/john), not a traditional ten digit phone number and pin. Prior to Speek, John worked as a business development executive at AOL where he supported the expansion of the AIM Network to hundreds of 3rd party products and the growth of Patch.com, one of the largest local media web property in the US. As an entrepreneur, John was a co-founder, COO, and business development executive of Evite.com. In his early career, John worked as a technology and telecommunications consultant for Booz Allen and the San Francisco Consulting Group. John holds an MBA from UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business and a BS in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia.

CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
John: Speek.com is a super simple, visual, and free conference calling service. We are updating this antiquated experience by getting rid of the phone number and PIN, and replacing that with a personal Speek link (i.e. Speek.com/john) which allows participants to join a conference call in seconds with one-click. Speek's visual interface allows call organizers to see who's joined, who's talking, share files and use other tools that lead to better calls and more productive meetings. We are also enhancing the conference calling experience by connecting Speek to the online services and technologies people use today including social media integration, online services such as Dropbox, and the latest web-based VOIP technology.  Please try it out at Speek.com and I love to receive feedback.

CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
John: Life is too short to not take a shot at following your dreams and it is important to not to let fear guide your decision making. I believe there are thousands of super-talented entrepreneurs working in "safe" corporate jobs all over Virginia. They have great ideas and an ability to execute yet they are simply not moving forward with these ideas because they are afraid of the consequences of failure. For those with the courage to take the "leap," you should have a plan for starting your venture and a plan if it doesn't work out. If you manage your personal risks everything will be ok. The key is to have an ability to pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and live to fight another day. 

CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
John: I enjoy the Lean Startup events and Tech Meetups where I can meet and learn from other entrepreneurs or anyone in the startup community. I am looking forward to joining Mindshare this year.

CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
As the CEO and Co-Founder of Speek, real-time collaboration and knowledge sharing is a core benefit of our service.  Everyday our team gets up in the morning thinking about how to make Speek easier to use and more productive for our customers. I have always had a personal affinity for products that bring people together either for a business meeting (Speek) or a birthday party (Evite).

CIT: What makes Northern Virginia’s tech scene unique?
Paradoxically, it is both big and at the same time very small. The Washington DC Metro area is likely to have the highest number of technical professionals in the country yet most of these people work in jobs supported by the federal government. At the same time the high-tech entrepreneurial community feels relatively small in comparison to other major cities around the country. I believe in this dichotomy there is an opportunity to identify and transition talent into technology startups. 

Contact Information
John Bracken
CEO and Co-founder of Speek