Jonathan Maxim is a Fortune 500 marketing strategist turned growth hacker who’s led global campaigns for top brands, including Monster Energy, Xfinity, and TikTok, which gained 22,800 app installs in the first 30 days of their campaign. Maxim is co-founder of Vea Fitness, a social media fitness app that rewards your workouts with discounts and free gear from top retailers like Saucony and New Balance, as well as local storefronts. Vea Fitness was founded in 2014 and was successfully sold in 2017 to private investors in the medical field. After that, Maxim headed up growth marketing for TikTok / ByteDance in 2019, responsible for its explosive growth in the USA, UK, and Brazil during 2019-2020, driving over 18,500 TikTok installs in 24 hours. Since Maxim has run growth marketing for social media platform Thriller (Thriller – You Do You) in which he brought the cost per user acquisition down by 73% in 3 months.
Today, Maxim heads up growth for ClickStream’s HeyPal™ app, which registered 256K+ new downloads in its first three months. He was promoted from head of Marketing to CEO on Thursday, September 9, 2021. Maxim’s focus for the HeyPal™ app is to roll out the HeyPal™ Android app this Fall, build a monetization platform and increase user lifetime value and company revenue, improve product features and functionality, build out blockchain and cryptocurrency integrations, and enhance content delivery in-app for users. Beyond that, he is charged with leading the company to a liquidity event shortly.
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Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Jonathan Maxim: I am the CEO of HeyPal, a fast-growing social language learning app, which almost tripled in downloads in the last 30 days in comparison to Rosetta Stone. Our groundbreaking “language exchanging” platform offers several features that help global Android and iOS users learn a new language socially, including instant translation for texts and social posts, the ability to upload fun and engaging videos and voice notes as a form of language practice, and analytics that allow creators to build their social profiles. Our goal is to help people learn a new language faster through social interaction and actually have fun doing it.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Jonathan Maxim: I knew for sure I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer – too vanilla. I started my first business when I was 8 years old, selling sodas and snacks at the basketball court, and learned some true street justice in the process. More importantly, I learned negotiation skills. By the time I graduated college with a BA in Fine Arts, I knew that, yes, I wanted to create things, but doubted the financial viability of an art degree. I then went on to gain an MBA and focused on corporate strategy. Soon it became clear I was not cut out to deal with the red tape and sluggishness of the industry and started developing a fitness rewards app. I found myself building the website in under four hours, which at my corporate job took our team as long as four weeks. At that point, I knew I had a different calling, quit, and became a full-time founder. Since then, I have started several companies and made millions of people smile, and that’s all I care about doing today. I think HeyPal, my latest global app, can make a lot of people smile.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Jonathan Maxim: I play a daily game with my mom called “Word of the Day,” where we text each other curious SAT-type words and make the other define them and use them in a sentence. One can say, learning and my aspiration for knowledge in different fun ways have been the sole motivation for my personal and professional life thus far.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Jonathan Maxim: There’s a big difference between someone like the CEO of Disney or Dell and an entrepreneur. The CEO usually steps into an already-running, effective company and doesn’t have to create anything from scratch. An entrepreneur faces immensely more risk and is responsible for creating a system that works, fostering a continually energized team, and developing a product that genuinely benefits the customer and their needs.
So, to me, an Entrepreneur CEO is one of the most dignified and noble pursuits. This person is not only responsible for bringing a team and a company together and moving things from zero to one, but they’re the ones who must shoulder all the load, criticisms, and discouragements while staying positive and inspiring others. Ultimately, I think a lot of traditional CEOs become martyrs for their business. And that’s no way to live, but it’s hard to avoid for many – especially those hellbent on fulfilling their promise to themselves and their team. Lastly, an Entrepreneur CEO is someone who can be constantly told no, have doors slammed in their face for years, and still do better work than any of their critics. This person is building the plane while it’s flying.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Jonathan Maxim: At HeyPal, our mission is to unlock people’s potential through language learning, which is proven to be a mechanism for creating more empathy, understanding, and connection across borders and cultures. This belief is integral to our company culture, which promotes a working environment where everyone is treated with respect.
With that in mind, we have a very diverse, world-class team with people from all creeds, colors, and genders. Our team represents Asia, Latin America, EMEA, and the Americas. We encourage varying perspectives, and I believe that the more diverse a team is, the better it’s creative problem-solving will be. Unique upbringings, culture, and vantage points from our diverse team allow us to see various angles of a challenge and tackle it cohesively and quickly.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Jonathan Maxim: People don’t connect with companies; people connect with people. That is why a CEO must develop proximity with stakeholders, and investors, tangibly and humanly to break through antiquated processes. If COVID taught us anything, it is that a CEO must foster genuine relationships and trust with their audience, including employees.
Once the CEO sets that trust with employees, they will see the results in stock prices, regular users turning to power users, and team members into team leaders. Consequently, growth will multiply naturally the more the CEO steps into the limelight and shares an epic vision. People need and want a human to associate with each brand they buy from or work for, and this can break traditional views of the workplace and the relationship between CEO and employees.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Jonathan Maxim: I am helping people just like you make new friends all over the world and teaching them to speak to each other in new languages so they can make more friends, learn new skills, and earn more money.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Jonathan Maxim: Prioritizing People over Profits. As the head of a company, CEOs are offered opportunities every day for short-term wins. But taken too often, there’s a price to pay. I experienced this firsthand by taking on several large projects that not only inspired me but would be incredibly beneficial to HeyPal users. But the truth is, the increased workload wasn’t manageable for our team, especially given our infrastructure and operational processes as a startup. This leads to increased stress, reduced mindfulness, and potentially compromising work quality. Even if these new features increase our valuation in the realm of millions for shareholders, the cost could be our culture. Given that one of our core values is mindfulness, I know that we need to elevate and that I wouldn’t want to work for a boss who made my workload unmanageable. This is a marathon, not a sprint. So set your team up to win long-term.
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Jonathan Maxim: My most useless talent is when I’m overly helpful with my team. People crave challenges, and if we cottle them, we are depriving them of the opportunity to try something themselves and learn.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Jonathan Maxim: “Jack of all Trades, Master of Many”
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jonathan Maxim for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jonathan Maxim or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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