He started a crazy-popular hoverboard company…
then watched it come crashing down.
Max Ringelheim teamed up with KettleSpace to deliver a one-of-a-kind, interactive virtual workshop that puts attendees in the driver’s seat of the rise and fall of his hoverboard company. He spoke with us about how he got his start, what he learned along the way, and how he turned that into an awesome event.
Hi Max, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 30 years old from Long Island, NY and have a mom, dad, three brothers, and 2 nieces and 2 nephews. I love tennis, golf, meditation, reading, traveling and going to the beach. I’m also a big Knicks and JETS fan which has caused severe heartache the last 30 years.
In the earlier portion of my career I was responsible for co-founding two technology companies. I started a video conferencing software company called Vonvo.com which was a virtual events platform. Think Google Hangouts meets Kickstarter. I was also responsible for launching 2015’s Hoverboard fad product through a super popular viral brand called PhunkeeDuck.
Over the latter part of my career I’ve had two full time jobs at larger tech companies doing sales at a children’s technology company called littleBits and doing Product Marketing at WeWork’s Flatiron School.
How did you become interested in entrepreneurship?
I first fell in love with entrepreneurship during the summer months of high school when I was managing a small three-court tennis club in the town I grew up in. I would go on to attend University at Buffalo which had a business plan competition called the Panasci Technology Entrepreneurship Competition. It was here my love for entrepreneurship truly blossomed.
My sophomore and junior year of college I entered that competition with an eco-friendly car sharing transportation service called University Green Transportation (UGT). This was before Uber in 2008 and 2009 so the service was definitely the right idea at the right time but no one was investing in little 19-year-old Max. I never did place in the Panasci Competition with UGT but after graduating in May 2012 I placed second in Panasci and won $10,000 to launch Vonvo.com.
How did you come up with when going viral?
I came up with When Going Viral right after working on PhunkeeDuck in March 2016. The idea started as a book and has since evolved. After the experience of launching PhunkeeDuck, going viral, doing millions in business, and then having it all come crashing down 14 months later I felt like I had to find a way to share this fascinating story. As a past cofounder and young entrepreneur I almost felt like I had a duty of some sort to share this incredible startup story because of the massive number of business and life lessons I learned from it. To that point, when I initially created When Going Viral the mission of it was to “Educate the business community on the cautions, concerns and warnings associated with going viral,” and I’m proud to say that this mission still holds even as the concept has evolved into a blog, workshop, podcast and hopefully a book one day.
In particular, my interactive and educational workshop is how I’ve collaborated with KettleSpace. I always love to see how this workshop resonates with attendees, given the vast majority of people I’ve surveyed give it a 10 out of 10 in terms of enjoyment. I’m also excited about how this workshop can act as a new innovative Human Resources and learning and development program for organizations to offer their employees.
Speaking of the lessons you learned after the demise of Phunkeeduck, are there other hard lessons you’ve learned from your life of entrepreneurship?
Absolutely, there’s plenty. You’ve got to learn to develop extremely thick skin and be comfortable with rejection. As one of my mentors and famed entrepreneur Dave Meltzer puts it, “For every no you continue to hear, you’re that much closer to hearing a yes. Put yourself in a mentality where you’re only 25 no’s away from a yes. Be excited about your no’s and learn from them.” You’re going to have so many important people look you in the eyes and say, “I just don’t get it.” But that’s okay because a lot of people won’t get it up front.
Over the years you’ll get so much more comfortable with those annoying uncomfortable situations and better at maneuvering through them. Your gut intuition will improve. By developing an I-don’t-give-a-f*ck attitude, you as an entrepreneur will be able to overcome unimaginable obstacles and find out how much strength you truly have.
Zoom calls can be energy-sapping; how do you fire people up during this workshop ?
I use funny anecdotal stories and leverage my experiences from PhunkeeDuck in a way that allows audience members to truly feel the emotions that I felt while everything magical and not so magical was happening to our brand. Not many people can say they’ve seen first-hand what can go wrong during a global product phenomenon, or seen a business go viral, or had Jamie Foxx shout out your company on national television on The Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show. I keep people engaged with my cliffhanger breakout groups which allow attendees to be in the driver’s seat, and gives them the opportunity to answer the pivotal questions that were facing the company at crucial moments.
What are some takeaways from this workshop?
Aside from getting plenty of laughs and having your jaw drop multiple times during the story, the main takeaway that people, especially those in the business community, can expect to leave with is a comprehensive understanding of the cautions, concerns, and warnings associated with a business, product or campaign going viral. At the same time, Human Resources professionals at all different kinds of organizations will be able to see first hand how powerful this workshop can be for their staff from an engagement, training, learning and development standpoint.
If you enjoyed learning about Max Ringelheim's background and his brand When Going Viral you can follow him using the below social media links. Also don't forget to RSVP for his upcoming Kettlespace workshop on May 12th at 5pm EST