Opinion: 23-year-old CEO advises ‘Chase elephants’


The following is a conversation between start-up CEO Patrick McConlogue and Devon Walker, an associate consultant in the Strategic Planning practice area at The Prouty Project. It’s part of an occasional opinion series on BringMeTheNews, in partnership with Prouty, featuring insights from business leaders.

Meet Patrick McConlogue, 23-year-old CEO of Arbitrage.io. Born and raised in California, Patrick moved to New York City after attending Pepperdine University. Patrick strikes a fascinating balance between the popularized “tech start-up whiz kid” archetype and a normal guy who likes to build cool (and useful) things.

With a long background in design and development, he has developed over a dozen web applications, two iOS applications, and an Android application. His most recent tech start-up is www.arbitrage.io, which offers users unique insight into eCommerce pricing across three markets: eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba (Chinese), helping users buy from one and sell on another for a profit.

Listen to him talk – he uses phrases like “chasing elephants,” “bicycles for the mind,” “fish IPOs,” “aggregate user CEOs,” “naked minds,” and “hunting the big vision,” and you begin to realize that this guy is different.

When asked, “What is the most important thing to know about Patrick?” he responded, “I want to build cool things together. Guaranteed, whoever you are, you have something to bring to the table and I would like to hear it.”

Patrick, why do you get up in the morning?

I go to work in the morning because I love technology. Steve Jobs early in his career compared the computer to a bicycle for the mind. Without it, we can run only as fast as our legs can travel, but with those black keys your mind can travel around the world in milliseconds. It’s this travel and the lure of what I may discover that drives me to work on things like Arbitrage.io, and of course, get out of the bed in the morning.

Describe your average day.

I start with the daily TED talk and then a THNKR video on YouTube. During the commute, I read Hacker News or an engineering book. I try to climb or go to the gym once a day and work into the evening. I read at least three hours every day.

Why do you work as hard as you do?

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Inspire a man to fish and he will gather new fishermen around him, improve on the process of fishing, expand into the fishery services, raise venture capital, open new distribution routes, and do a fish IPO, etc. I have found inspiration in Arbitrage.io because I think projects like Bitcoin, PayPal, and eCommerce at large are disruptive and interesting. I am not sure what this space will become in the next 10 years, but I am excited to look at it from the aggregate perspective presented in by Arbitrage.

How does it feel to be a 23-year-old CEO?

I think CEO is a term that fits for someone who is disconnected 100% from building the company, yet is the primary stakeholder in decision-making. This sort of individual works well for a large corporation. Seeing as I am 100 percent responsible for the software of Arbitrage.io, I am something like a project manager who is employed by my users. I think in early stage technology startups, the aggregate of the users assume the role of CEO; 100 percent disconnected, but their wishes and feedback are the primary decision-making component.

In your own words, describe Arbitrage.io.

Arbitrage is a price analyses search engine that offers insight into eBay, Amazon, and wholesale prices in China. The short-term goal of the service is to offer merchants tools to leverage price disparity on similar or identical products for profit and gain.

The long-term goal is to act as a change-agent in stabilizing prices worldwide. I see a future of unified pricing worldwide and would love to act as a micro player in this future. Beyond offering real-world tools, part of the stabilizing process I want is for Arbitrage to educate users on the fact that there is a disparity.

What has been your biggest challenge as CEO of Arbitrage?

The hardest problem has been accuracy. Extracting comparisons at a specific point in time is relatively easy, but when you stretch the model across millions of products between Amazon, eBay, and China the forecasting and relevance become big challenges to overcome. I think it has come a long way since the first comparisons, but there are some new ideas I am excited to bring to the mix over the next couple of weeks.

What is your best piece of advice to other young CEOs?

Chase elephants. Everyone will tell you to get out and do. Often, myself included, we limit ourselves to what we think we can do. The saying, “You eat an elephant one bite at a time” is exactly right. You can do anything you want, so leave the chicken-sized problems alone and chase elephants.

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