Ricky L. Shepherd II
Ricky L. Shepherd II

Founder & CEO of Pndoras Box,  Ricky Shepherd II: When It Comes to Technology California Is Sublime for Innovation. Networking, Recruiting and Publicity Also Reign Supreme Here

Ricky L. Shepherd II of Pndoras Box, Inc..

Tell us about yourself?

I always had an affinity for art and playing games. Ever since I was 9, I would sit in the floor and watch my mom draw. Early on I was very introverted and would spend majority of my time playing video games like Crash Bandicoot, Killer Instinct, and later on Red Dead Redemption.

I got my first start in tech while working at HP and studying Architecture undergrad. Architecture helped me understand shapes and mood, but copying scripts at HP made me want to dive deeper and learn code.

That’s when I knew I wanted to build something centered around creativity that would inspire people.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

I think the biggest misconception people have about startups is, I have this big idea now I’m going to make/ receive all of this money and change the world (second time founders excluded).

Or If I can just get the money, I’ll be able to build my concept or hire people. Both of those can be farthest from the truth

What’s more impressive is spending no money to recruit and using equity as barter to hire talented people because they believe in your company’s vision, mission and why, therefore they help you build it. Unless you can build it yourself, and recruit later…

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

Innovation lies somewhere between starvation and ingenuity. It’s harder, but also better to build with little to no money. Most of the time my best ingenuity came in times of desperation.

You have less expectations and you also are able to think more freely and concise. I’ll add, be bold and gregarious. Network as much as you can, and surround yourself around other thriving startup founders and communities that will push you further. The Universe rewards the brave..

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Traction is king. Build something people want and get it out into the market fast to test it and reiterate. My next bit of advice goes against Paul Graham’s wishes, but don’t quit your day job.

The best advantage a founder can have when talking to investors or recruiting is leverage.

People are more interested or eager to join you if you’ve already built something and have a couple of users; even if that means you have to bootstrap first.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

I think there needs to be a healthy dose of both. I’m more of a “and I took that personally” kind of guy so I’m different.

But even then, I only try to limit my sacrifices to well thought out decisions. I think Michael Seibel did a talk on this titled “Lifestyle Habits Of Successful Founders”.

The goal should be to move closer to your milestones, while also not losing your sanity due to sleep deprivation and starving in the process.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

I always believe life imitates art. When counting my influences, I have to give credit to architecture. It is where I got my first start at learning art.

Studying greats like Frank Gehry, Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rohe where unforgettable. but Zaha Hadid was my favorite… I love the way she manipulated shapes and thought about space, plus she was the only architect I had ever seen successfully cross over into fashion, at the time.

I was pretty bummed when she died, but her work inspired me to pursue my lifelong goal which was to become a fashion designer.

From there my top three influences where Alexander McQueen, Virgil Abloh and Steve jobs. I love that they were rule breakers, rebellious and visionaries when it came to thought processes and creating things.

I also respected that none of them had a traditional path in their respective field.

I think reading an article in Vogue , while studying fashion about a 13 year old girl becoming a designer in the metaverse spawed the idea that and seeing the Travis Scott Fortnite concert was the missing piece before I began building Pndoras Box.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

I think every great company has to have a great leader. A great leader has to have charisma and be able to sell the vision before people ever see product.

Tesla had Elon Musk, Apple had Steve Jobs and pop culture has Yeezy. But to answer the question, I think starting with why is important.

We only wanted people associated with Pndoras Box who wanted to be a part of creating something bigger than themselves.

By challenging the status quo our focus was to inspire people to see the world and humans differently. As a result, our community will think differently. People will also be bold and inspire others to think freely. I think that is what separates us from another company.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

Our approach was different. Our primary goal has been to grow fast while acquiring market share. Somewhere between that process we have been testing customers willingness to buy and will rolling out pre-orders and a subscription plan soon.

But I would recommend that other founders test customers willingness to buy first, that way you know if you’re building something people want and and won’t waste a bunch of developer hours.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?

When it comes to Technology California is sublime for innovation. Networking, recruiting and publicity also reign supreme here. Allough I think Austin and Houston are gaining traction with the recent move of a few tech giants

What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?

Being from Texas, I would have to say taxes, which is why I believe some Tech giants are making the switch.

Often when looking ahead, I have to sometimes center my thought process around recruitment and do I want to build my company exclusively here? Or when we scale and grow will we allow our team to work remote, and if so which cities?

We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?

I think this goes back to the remote work. When I started Pndoras Box I intended for our team to be remote and work within the metaverse, but cost of living plays a critical factor in executing that.

On one hand you have the opportunity to recruit top-tier talent within California/ Silicon Valley ecosystem, on the other if divvying up equity and paying a ramen profitable salary isn’t enough (if you can afford), you have to turn people away.

Cost of living can play a deciding factor in how we recruit but, ultimately, we aim to find a happy medium.

It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?

California definitely has its peaks and valleys, but I think every founder should start with why to distance themselves. Your why if interesting enough, can be a recruitment tool and what truly get investors out of bed (traction seals the deal).

I’ve seen people leave their high paying jobs to come work with us simply believing in our vision and why. If you’re company is having difficulty competing you may need to rethink your why.

Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?

Texas will always be home and is my birthplace, but I love the energy and atmosphere of California.

Although with the recent move of Californian companies to Texas it makes me wonder could I adopt those same concepts and ideologies there, more specifically Houston.

If I had to choose one place to move Pndoras Box it would be Houston.

I love the city’s culture and ethnic diversity. Those are the type of people you want on your team, plus they have been making considerable strides to be a leader of innovation and tech hub. But why can’t we be remote and choose them both?

Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

Within the next 5 years I am aiming to be the next Unicorn. But before we can do that we must focus on our primary mission, which is to build a thriving community filled with creators, self-expression and innovation inside the Pndoras Box ecosystem.

If we can accomplish this we stand a good chance of reaching critical mass and hitting our goal in stride.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

If people want to know more about us they should go to our webpage (https://pndorasbox.com/), signup and follow all of our socials.

Although we post to Instagram pretty regularly: @Official_Pndoras

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