16 Jul PeopleWise: Chris Buckner
Graduating from Texas A&M University with a marketing and business degree in 2007, Chris Buckner had his heart set on working for a large advertising agency. He wanted to be Matthew McConaughey in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days—pitching advertising ideas to large companies (and marry Kate Hudson). Though he did not land his dream gig, he gained valuable experience working for several smaller companies. Later, with his connections and charisma, Chris was well-positioned to become a startup founder. He joined a group of friends, and after many pivots, they brought FanReact to life. FanReact is now a social media app that serves as a communication tool for their customers to communicate with its audience. Today, Chris is the founder and CEO of Mainline.GG, an esports tournament organizer, and tech company.
What was your key driving force in becoming an entrepreneur?
I wouldn’t even say I’m an entrepreneur. I would say I am entrepreneurial. It’s kind of a selfish thing, but I figured the fastest way to get to the top was to do it myself. After working in multiple companies, I got tired of the traditional way of moving up where you work for a certain amount of years, get promoted, and repeat. This was such a naïve way of thinking because I very much romanticized the idea of starting my own company. A lot of times you don’t see the messy and hard parts in starting a company; you only see the pretty parts. But, I like controlled chaos and had the ability to take a big risk as a single man with no debt.
What inspired you to start your first company?
To be honest, all of the rejections and failures got me into starting my own thing. Right before I jumped aboard the FanReact train, I was interviewing for an advertising agency liaison at Facebook. I got pretty far but ended up getting rejected. I also had my fair share of rejections from advertising agencies, which made the idea of starting a company more interesting.
What was the most important thing you learned creating your first startup?
One of the first things I learned was how naïve I was about this whole thing. I didn’t even do any kind of research—no market research, no competitive research. We had this idea and just ran with it, not even considering if anyone would want it. There is app fatigue and didn’t even know that when we decided to create an app. We were really fortunate that it worked out. For the founders out there, do your research!
What is it like being a CEO?
My job is centered around three major parts: investor relations, strategy, and business development. For investor relations, I am constantly working on updates and raising funds for the company. For business development, a big one is managing the employees. It’s so hard because I do all of the firings. Overall, it’s nothing but meetings. Sometimes it feels weird because I’m not writing a 40-page strategy plan for the business, but meeting with people who do them and other people who can help this business grow.
What motivates you, and has that changed since you first started?
Oh yeah, my motivation has definitely changed since I first started. I am currently motivated by my employees. I strongly believe that my employees should feel safe and secure about their future. However, this industry is hyper-competitive; the highs are high and the lows are low. So, even if I’m going crazy on the inside, I have to keep my calm in front of my employees. The idea that their lives are in my hand motivates me to keep going and push through the lows. On another note, he feels very fortunate to be in this position and that also keeps him motivated.
What are your passions outside of your startup?
I have a very close group of friends who have seen me through all of my ups and downs, and these guys are crazy important to me. Aside from them, I am a huge movie buff. I think at some point, I want to do some kind of passion project related to movies. Additionally, I am trying to get into traveling. I have only been on vacation once the past four years. To make up for that I planned three vacations for just this year. I have already gone surfing! That was fun.
What advice do you have for startup founders?
I have two things to say. Don’t give up on what you want to do. Know when to change your ideas and pivot if you need to, but if you want to do your own thing and start a startup, don’t give up on that. If you are passionate about this, just do it. The other thing is don’t undervalue yourself and your company, especially when you go to raise funding. Now, I’m not saying overvalue yourself, but this is your idea so take pride in it.