Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Boris Pfeiffer, and I’m the current CEO and co-founder of Riddle. I’ve been starting companies since I was 16 years old. I first started a company that imported American football equipment because I had my own team here in Germany and there was no place that I could buy helmets and shoulder pads for it. I’ve had the startup bug ever since. Over the years, I’ve worked with some larger companies setting up European or global operations, while at the same time working on my own projects. All these things eventually led to Riddle.
What exactly does your company do?
Riddle provides a set of tools to create interactive content like quizzes, surveys, and personality tests. At Riddle, we allow our clients to embed quizzes on their website so they can collect information from their readers. It’s a great tool to learn more about the audience and is something entertaining to do for the customers themselves.
There’s a psychology behind humanity’s inherent love for quizzes. Quizzes have been popular since the first magazines started including personality tests for people to complete while waiting for their doctor appointments. This is because quizzes are about the most important topic of all: yourself. It’s a great way to entertain and engage users but also collect information about users in an honest fashion.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Because I’m not a developer, the biggest challenge has been to find solid developers that are interested in building things that I like and believe will be successful. Along with that, of course, is finding the money to pay these developers. This has gotten a lot more difficult because developers are now raising money themselves for ideas they have. So the biggest challenge for me has been not being able to code and having to deal with that limitation.
Luckily, I’ve always been good at raising money. I’ve always managed to come up with the funds to pay for developers and have grown a network to find people that I can easily tap into and find who wants to work with me. So that’s how we found the first crew that built the initial version of Riddle. Eventually, Riddle became big enough that we could attract people to work with us. But finding people has been the biggest challenge. Learning how to build teams and find people has been one of my greatest accomplishments.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
I wish someone had told me that not everything that you and everyone you talk to thinks is good is actually good. You need to get out of your bubble before releasing your product to the world. If people had told me earlier that there were ways to test the market before building the product, it would have saved me a lot of money at the beginning. But hindsight is 20/20.
The other thing is that when you believe in something. Don’t hold back. Don’t just tell your family and friends: They will always tell you that your idea is awesome – they want to remain your friends and family after all. You need to go out and find some strangers. Find other people who aren’t afraid to give you critical advice.
One of my major influences, James Currier, taught me the importance of seeking critical reviews. He once built a scrappy prototype, put it down on a table on Market Street in San Francisco and asked people who were walking around what they thought of it. This is really good advice that I have taken to heart. We still do something similar: We sometimes go to Starbucks, buy someone a coffee and see what they think. Surprisingly people are really open to doing that. We hardly ever hear “no.”
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
Besides James, the other major influence on me was Stan Chudnovsky, the co-founder of a site called Tickle, one of the biggest websites in the US. Stan, who now works at Facebook, taught me how to make things go viral: He is the god of virality. It either has to make people laugh, make the quiz taker look good, or make the quiz taker look stupid. If done right, the content will be shared again and again, in an endless cycle of virality.
Stan is a typical American rags-to-riches story: He was born in Russia ended up selling his company to Monster for over $100 million. I remember him saying that his chances of flying to the moon were exponentially higher than becoming a millionaire. What I learned from him is to never give up and follow your dreams.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Without a doubt, my wife. We’ve been married since 1997. She has always helped me along the way and was part of the first real company I started, an import/export business. She joined me there and has helped tremendously, supporting me and staying with the kids when I was travelling around the world. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to do anything. She was also a great support to me when I had cancer, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be alive today without her.
Chris Carvalho, who worked at Kabam with me, is another person who has helped me along the way. Chris was a great teacher and taught me how to hire the right people and keep them happy. He’s been an advisor to Riddle since the beginning.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
On a personal level, surviving cancer is without a doubt at the top of the list of my successes. Once you experience something as awful as cancer, it gives you a different perspective on life. Everything money-related doesn’t really matter, while everything family-related matters a whole lot more. Sure, I may have raised millions of dollars for companies. But in the end, these are just not real successes in the game of life. When you’re dying your grandkids aren’t going to remember that you raised $3 million. They’re going to remember the small things: The holidays, the family trips, the soccer games. And I’m happy to say that I’ve only missed one of my kids’ soccer games my entire life.
How can people follow your journey? Please list your social media URLs
While I may not be as active as I should on social media, you can follow me here:
Riddle’s Twitter: @riddleapp