Jason Maloney is the Co-Founder and CEO of diffr3nt™, a Connecticut based manufacturer of premium handcrafted accessories bent on breaking convention, smashing satisfactory, and ousting okay. With a Social Media Marketing background at a Fortune 50 company, Jason left to start his accessories business with his old college roommate. Jason has been a FoundersCard Member since 2013.
1. What was your initial inspiration to create a line of phone cases and wallets that are diffr3nt™?
In college, my roommate and now Co-Founder, Mark Donne and I were unhappy with the cases on the market. Plastic was just that, plastic. It was boring and made the case bulky and uncomfortable. Rubber stretched and I hated its feel. But when I didn’t have a case on my sparkly new iPhone, I found myself way too gentle with it, and that just did not fit my lifestyle. I wanted something that was durable, thin, and made out of a non-conventional material; Mark felt that the back of the iPhone begged for a credit card to be held against it, and that right there was where the idea was born! From there, we started prototyping and we never looked back.
2. You mention on your website about creating local jobs within your community, how has this enhanced your company and its culture?
I think that it’s extremely important that all of our cases are handmade here in CT – it’s something to be proud of! When production spikes and we need to make more cases, we have the ability to hire more people that will be right here, in our office. When it comes to manufacturing, the first thing everyone says is, “You have to do this in China”…. well no, you don’t. You can do it here, you can make high quality products using a reliable and affordable workforce right in the same town as your headquarters. Each new person that we bring on becomes part of our community and helps make us unique – we listen to ideas from all of our team members. We would lack some of our cohesiveness and creativity if we outsourced production.
3. What advice would you give to someone trying to garner support for an new idea?
Find smart people, and surround yourself with them. You don’t know everything, not even close, so find people that you admire, that have great work ethic and a unique attitude towards life, and bring them into your company. At the same time, have fun! It is your creation, after all. Starting a business is an insanely difficult process, and if you don’t have a passion or love for your idea or product, dealing with the madness of a startup may not be the best place for you.
4. Aside from your phone in its diffr3nt™ case, what are a few other things you can’t leave home without?
I’m a watch guy, even though the time is thrown in my face everywhere these days. I am a huge fan of my Pebble smart watch, and am looking forward to developments in wearable tech. Not jumping to something like Glass just yet but I’m still excited for the possibilities it holds. I’ve also become pretty attached to my Jawbone UP, which is surprisingly addicting. I’m excited to see what other companies like Basis will offer in the future as I’m a fan of the whole “lifestyle tracking” field.
5. What do you think is the most important aspect of designing something new and revolutionary?
Love, it sounds crazy, but love is insanely important. You need to love what you are making. It can’t just be something that you think will make money, if that’s the case, you won’t have the passion that comes from making something you love. If you love your product, you will devote yourself without it even seeming like work, and end up with a better product.
6. On a day to day basis, what excites you the most?
I love seeing where the cases are being sent to – we have the greatest customers in the world and each day we are shipping to a new place! I love seeing the country or city, and getting excited for that person experiencing everything that the we have put into our cases, from the product itself to the packaging.
7. Prior to your current success, what was the worst job you ever had?
Worst job ever? Well for a summer I cleaned tables at an Italian restaurant. I was not a fan of it – no human interaction, just cleaning tables. I’m a social guy, so I would much rather be chatting away with people than cleaning up after them. But honestly, one of my favorite jobs was being a waiter , so I guess I’m weird that my “favorite” and worst jobs were in the same establishment.
8. Aside from your company/job, what is your greatest success?
I’d have to say my summer of “stepping out of my zone.” I woke up one morning and decided that I had not done anything “crazy” in awhile, nothing that I wasn’t comfortable doing. I then proceeded to book trips with my girlfriend where I experimented with sky diving, “Stunt falling,” and SCUBA diving. I was uncomfortable with the thought of doing any of these, so forcing myself to experience them was rewarding, as well as a ton of fun. I plan on doing all of them again.
9. Who is someone we should be following on Twitter right now?
I have to say @Medium as I am a huge fan of that blogging platform. They tweet some of their favorite posts, as well as the most popular posts of the week. I am a huge fan of the community that has sprouted up around Medium, so I would highly recommend giving them a follow and reading some posts.
10. What is one app that all FoundersCard Members should be using?
I’m a HUGE fan of Any.Do. They have an incredibly easy and simple ToDo list that helps me organize my days. It is visually pleasing and it works with Chrome browsers as well, so I’m sold.
Give us your best plug/brag a little about as to what you’re working on now/next?
We are looking to get into the “Droid” game. We love Samsung phones, and we are thinking that they need a little love from diffr3nt™ too! What I am really excited about though, is venturing out of the traditional case game, and moving into other types of accessories. I don’t want to give too much away, but we are having a ton of fun prototyping!