Timothy Burke on Why You Should Enjoy the Struggles on the Way to Success
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Timothy E. Burke, founder and CEO of the social media app, RUON AI, and SovereignSky, a blockchain platform aimed at eradicating global poverty. It was condensed by The Oracles.
Who are you?
Timothy Burke: I like to describe myself as a serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, and science fiction visionary. I’ve had 15 to 20 different projects going on at once many times, mostly in different industries. Right now, I’m pretty focused: I'm working on global philanthropy, an artificial intelligence social media app, and a space-based blockchain platform. I’m also a science fiction writer and producer of the upcoming Lionsgate movie, “Killers Anonymous,” starring Gary Oldman and Jessica Alba.
While it’s possible to spread yourself too thin, spreading yourself wide can increase your chances of a successful project. Entrepreneurship requires a passion to evolve, create, learn, and build. I believe that’s in your blood. What it takes to be an entrepreneur can’t be trained or taught in school. It’s a thirst, a drive for work, and a passion to expand your knowledge in a new genre, person, project, or industry.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
Timothy Burke: Supporting and caring for others is one of the most important things in life to me. Helping my friends succeed gives me happiness, so putting all my favorite people in my latest SwimIssue TV series was great. I’m also excited about the movie, “Planet X,” based on the science fiction epic I wrote and am co-directing.
Of all my projects, I’m most proud of SovereignSky, the space-based blockchain project to help eradicate extreme global poverty, which I’m working on with my partner, Stan Larimer of BitShares and BEOS. Creating a project that can and will make a difference is what really motivates me and makes me smile.
The only thing that stands in the way of eradicating global poverty is technology advancement and the will to solve the problem. Thanks to blockchain technology, we have both today.
How did your business get started?
Timothy Burke: Sometimes, success comes after you fail or need to radically change direction. Part of my success has come from realizing when a business isn’t working, hearing about the new zeitgeist — cryptocurrency — and going for it, all or nothing.
Most importantly, success is about karma and being truly selfless. RUON became successful when I decided to start working on SovereignSky instead of commercial projects. I prioritized a charity project when I had very little money, and the universe saw this positive move to help others. That’s when my other projects took off.
What’s your favorite quote?
Timothy Burke: I think Mother Teresa says it all: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
I’d like to be remembered by my own quote someday. I find it interesting how great people with important advice to share become defined or remembered by a single quote. How do those quotes become timeless and remembered?
What was your biggest challenge starting up? How did you overcome it?
Timothy Burke: I have overcome many challenges. I was down and out for three years, trying to get my movie platform into the air in Hollywood. I had nothing, to the point where I wrote a book about it. Even though I was poor, the little successes kept me happy — like a new contact I made, a new movie that came in, or a new business inquiry.
I finally achieved my goal and found success with RUON AI. Now that I’ve “made it,” I’ve found that you lose the excitement from those little successes. Little things in work and life kept me happy and focused on the battle to build my business. Enjoy the struggle!
What’s the biggest common leadership mistake?
Timothy Burke: I’ve really noticed my faults after finding success with RUON AI. I’ve never been good at delegating or getting a team together. I prefer to work five times harder, even if it means days with no sleep. Instead of building a team, I try to do everything myself.
Even if you can do everything, you lose time and ultimately become stressed out. There’s no point being wealthy if you’re stressed and have no quality of life. I’ve matured, and it feels amazing when you do find that incredible team member, which is why PeoplePerHour.com is still my favorite website.
How do you hire top talent?
Timothy Burke: Websites like Toptal can help you find life-changing talent. But after years of running businesses in many fields and working with thousands of people, the most important talent is our web and app designer.
You can have the most exotic, groundbreaking ideas that will change the world — but they need to be displayed in a branded, user-friendly way. Design is everything. You won’t get users unless people can trust, understand, and enjoy your brand experience. It’s taken 10 years but I’ve found my designer. I know that no matter what I come up with, he will nail it with his incredible style.
What’s your daily routine for success?
Timothy Burke: I prefer to keep 100 percent of my companies, selling small parts to friendly investors and building them slowly. I’ve always owned 85-100 percent of my companies, except for SovereignSky, which Stan Larimer and I own together.
As a result, I’ve had no horror stories of partnerships turning sour. No fights over money or equity. No ego to deal with. I know what I have, how much work I’ve invested, and that my hard work will pay off. I’m not going to give that away easily. I’ll take my time. But launching something at the right time can be more important than spending years getting it perfect for launch.
Value those priorities above all else, and you can grow your idea into a million-dollar unicorn. It might take time but you have time. Work tirelessly, day and night. Enjoy it but recognize when you deserve a break. Love what you do or don’t do it at all. It’s about the journey, not the destination.
What are you working on right now?
Timothy Burke: I’m directing a television series about our mission to eradicate extreme global poverty with RUON AI and SovereignSky. RUON is a hyper-intelligent AI chat app that helps you communicate better with old friends and new contacts. App users earn RUON electronic currency, which they can then give back via SovereignSky.
SovereignSky’s first satellite went into space aboard the Space X in December 2018. When RUON users donate cryptocurrency, the app sends it to the satellite, which sends it to modems that charities help distribute in third-world countries. The cryptocurrency is then transferred to a smart card, which can be used to buy food, water, medicine, and supplies.
Up to 97.5 percent of the donation goes directly to the person in need, and donors can see how it is spent, which eliminates problems that commonly deter potential donors.
What do you want to be known for, or what do you want your legacy to be?
Timothy Burke: I want to be known for creating a concept to eradicate extreme global poverty — and we are well on our way. That is all that matters. No money can buy you the feeling of helping others.