Innovators: CEO at Zumbox, John Payne

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Innovators. They come in many forms. They dream big but they aren’t just dreamers. They form raw ideas into cool products with disruptive business models. They shatter entire industries and leave established leviathans running scared with their tails between their legs. The Innovators interview series connects you with the most driven people on the planet. What makes them tick? What advice do they have for tech founders? What tools do they use to get the job done? Read on to find out.

John Payne is chief executive officer at Zumbox, Inc.. Payne is an experienced technology industry chief executive officer with a track record in the mailing industry, consumer and small business Internet services, enterprise software, network and application security, Software as a Service and wireless. Before Zumbox, he served as chief executive officer of Preventsys and While at, he led the development of its operating business and its $65 million IPO and a $365 million secondary offering co-managed by Goldman Sachs and Salomon Smith Barney. He also led as chief executive officer the prosecution of four portfolios of issued and pending patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Payne is a regular speaker at industry and trade conferences. He is the lead or co-inventor of multiple patents in those portfolios in Internet security, wireless messaging, mobile applications and social search.

What do you enjoy most about your work and why?

At Zumbox we are setting out to change the world by leading the revolution of postal mail from paper and ink to the Internet. This is one of those great opportunities where everyone benefits; cost saving for mailers, convenience for consumers and big contributions to the environment. Working on a high impact project like this is the most rewarding thing there is.

Where does your passion come from? What drives you, inspires you, excites you?

I’ve always enjoyed the creative process of building companies. It is exciting to see an idea become a product and then satisfy a market, much more exciting than the golf course or other hobbies. Big markets where fundamental change has a very wide halo effect. It’s fine to solve a small problem very efficiently, but solving a big problem in a scalable way is much more fun.

Someone reading this wants to start a tech company. What’s your best advice for them?

Build the business around something that excites you rather than something that looks good on a spreadsheet. It’s best to have domain knowledge or other understanding of the market that you can bring to bear. That kind of knowledge is a great “unfair competitive advantage” vs just knowing the technology. And then FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS on the main pain point in your domain area.

What are a few tech startups that you’re really excited about right now and why?

I have to say that Uber is one that really gets me excited because it is so useful to me. I ask every driver I use what they think of Uber and they all flash a big smile and say “it’s great!” And the passengers seem to feel the same way.

What tech tools (websites, apps, gadgets, etc.) do you rely on both for work and in your down time?

Uber, of course. Evernote. Believe it or not, the app for iOS actually is pretty useful. Waze, for social GPS navigation. Hate to say it, but I’m still an Outlook guy for email and calendaring. Yelp is really useful as well.

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