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Derek Johnson Interview, Founder Of The Revolutionary Tatango Text Messaging Platform Reveals His Entrepreneurial Secrets

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The Harder I Work, The Luckier I Get

Hi Everyone!

Do you Tatango?

Today we have a very interesting interview for you with Derek Johnson – founder of SMS Marketing startup Tatango.com – a Test Messaging Platform that allows the thousands that use Tatango every day to keep their group connected through group SMS.

Tatango.com was born out of a gap in the market, a gap which Derek like a true entrepreneur spotted and quickly filled. Tatango.com has taken off so well that Derek dropped out of the business program at the University of Houston and launched Tatango in late 2007, initially offering the service for free. Today users pay a monthly fee of $20 to $200 depending on the number of texts sent, and now has about 10,000 registered users. (You do the math 😉 )

I think you are really going to enjoy this interview and get a lot of inspiration from it.

Derek also gave us one of the cleverest answers ever to my question: What do you like least about the Internet?

It never sleeps, I have to sleep, it’s so much better than me.

Come to think of it – he could have gave the same answer to: What do you like best about the Internet?

Enjoy the interview – I look forward to your comments.

Best Wishes


PS: Check out the answer to question 12 in particular: What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur starting their first business today? Very impressive answer — and Derek includes his own Cell Number as demonstration of his commitment to customer service.

Derek Johnson Interview

Derek - tatango

First – a little background information on Derek:

I’m 25 years old, and have spent most of my life in Bellingham, WA, a small city just north of Seattle. Anyone that knows me, knows I’m an extremely motivated individual, I love to build businesses, it’s my passion. What motivates me though to do what I do? I think I just like the challenge.

1) You are the founder of tatango.com, which is a group text messaging platform. What gave you the idea for this type of platform?
The idea came to me one afternoon when I was having lunch with a friend. She was in a Sorority and they were having trouble contacting all the girls in the house at the same time about meeting times, events and other urgent information. They had tried Facebook, Email and phone trees, but they had all been proved inefficient. That’s when it came to me that text messaging would be the perfect way to reach all the members of her house at the same time. Looking for a solution for my friend, I went online and couldn’t find anything that really solved this problem. A few days later, Tatango was born.

2) You have thousands of groups using Tatango all over the country, which is really impressive. Could you share some strategies for how you grew your customer base?

It’s really not rocket science how we got to where we currently are. The majority of our new Tatango groups come from referrals, so we spend a crazy amount of time making sure our current groups are happy. Seems simple enough right?

3) What is the formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur?

This is always heavily debated, but I firmly believe you are either born with the entrepreneurial mindset or aren’t, you can’t learn something like that.

4) What next for tatango.com? Where do you see the business in say 5 years time? Any other budding ideas you can share with us?

Right now we are solely focused on making Tatango the best group sms product out there. We think we have our product very close, not sure what is next though. We don’t think too far ahead into the future, we just focus on what’s going on currently and how we can do what we are doing better. Recently I have started a new company called Derek Media, which is a company that manages brands on Twitter, Facebook and blogs for our clients. You can check it out at http://www.derekmedia.net

5) Do you have any recommended strategies for getting customers to recommend you to other customers?

Most of our new clients for Tatango come from references from current users. You have to keep your customers satisfied with your service. We accomplish this by being available 24/7 to answer questions about any technical difficulties, or just general inquires about Tatango. Also, we have allowed our customers to get to know us and create a personal relationship with us by using Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and videos. If you have a great product and customers are happy with their experience then they will recommend it to people they know.

6) Does social networking play any roll in your business? If so what?

Social networking plays a huge roll in our business. We are constantly updating our Twitter status (www.twitter.com/tatango) and engaging in conversations with people interested in our product, or just anyone who has something interesting to say. We also have a Facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/tatango) where fans can post questions and comments and we post videos, links and pictures about what’s going on at Tatango. We have a very strong online presence and have allowed our customers to get to know us on a personal level which provides them with more confidence in our product.

7) Do you have any suggestions for coping with set-backs, negative experiences?
No matter what happens, you are probably not the first person who has gone through it. Seek out guidance from those who have gone through it before, it will save a lot of time and energy. There will always be set-backs, but you have to handle them appropriately and not let them get you off focus. There is no experience that is a negative – every experience gives you an opportunity to learn and grow.

8 ) Do you have any suggestions for entrepreneurs who are experiencing challenging times?

To be honest, when things get crazy, frustrating, or just near impossible, I never think about throwing in the towel. For me, those are the fun days! When do you get to test your skills and determination more than at those points in your business career? Those are the sort of obstacles that make what I do such a challenge and so rewarding.

9) Is there anyone that you look up to and model yourself on?

My father is my biggest role model. He has experience with both his own startups and working for large national companies. His knowledge and experiences have always been a great resource for me as a young entrepreneur. He is one of the hardest workers I know, and a brilliant entrepreneur. In many ways he has inspired me to become a young entrepreneur.

10) Do you have any favorite business related or web design related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?

College sucked the joy out of reading for me, so you most likely will never find me reading a book. I think the only book I’ve read in the last two years is the “The 4 Hour Work Week”, which is a must read for any entreprenuer.

11) What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Gary Player didn’t give me this advice personally, but he said

“the harder I work, the luckier I get”.

This is so true in business and life.

12) As someone who has achieved success so young, what advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur starting their first business today?

1.Start Small – Start small and you will be able to quickly see if you have something interesting before you look to expand.

2.Don’t Re-Invent The Wheel – No matter what problem you are experiencing or challenge you have in front of you, you aren’t the first person to ever go through it. Seek out advice or guidance from someone that has gone through the same thing you are going through, this will save you from making a lot of costly mistakes in the future.

3.Be Available – I’m the only Internet CEO I know who makes himself as available to his users as I am. The majority of our users know my personal cell phone number (206.334.4012 if they have forgot it) and they know that if they ever have a suggestion or any feedback about our website, they are able to get a hold of me. I think communicating with your users is extremely important and is the sole reason why we keep launching features that users love and our competitors copy.

13) What do you like best about the Internet?

I love how much information is available, there is never an excuse not to be able to find the information you need.

14) What do you like least about the Internet?

It never sleeps, I have to sleep, it’s so much better than me.

15) Any advice for how young entrepreneurs can bootstrap? (Not spending a ton to get something off the ground)?

Yeah, don’t waste money on stupid shit that doesn’t bring in revenue. It’s pretty simple. I remember when we were starting out, it took weeks for my employees to get me to spend the $40 to put up a Tatango sign on our front door. In my mind, the sign wasn’t bringing in business, so why spend money on it?

Related Links:

tatango.com – Group Text Messaging Done Right.

Join the thousands that use Tatango every day to keep their group connected through group SMS.


  1. very inspirational!

  2. kwame boame says:

    Nice interview. I am looking to add some services on my blog some time in the future.

  3. Greta interview and great advice. I love the advice about starting small. You take 1 step at a time instead of getting in over your head.

  4. Babatunde Adeyemi says:

    “In my mind, the sign wasn’t bringing in business, so why spend money on it?” – I love that line. Beautiful Interview

  5. Great Interview Michael! 🙂

  6. Mateen Aini says:

    I know Derek personally and this interview embodies him well. Hard worker & savvy business guy.

    Michael, another entrepreneur who is young and doing some big things domestically and internationally Ty Morse, CEO of Songwhale.

    He’d be a great interview too.

  7. I like how Derek saw the need for a particular service and went out and built that service up himself. If you can be the first to solve a common problem, success comes that much easier. I’m sure Derek had to work his ass off to get where is though. A good idea is only half the battle.

  8. Haha, funny how he didn’t want to buy a sign for his company.

  9. Since I too belong to an online organisation, the interview was especially useful. Inspirational! Thanks for the post

  10. very inspirational Michael!

  11. free beats says:

    Great Interview

  12. free beats says:

    Great Interview !!!

  13. great interview Michael

  14. Metal Briefcases says:

    I definitely agree with his comment about not re-inventing the wheel. Too many entrepreneurs think they have to build everything up from scratch and learn lessons on their own. So many other people have gone through similar circumstances and most are willing to share some advice to help you through those times.

  15. Ruben | OurBlogLog says:

    Excellent Interview , Derek, you made a great decision migrating away from conventional marketing to social media marketing.

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