Alejandro Rioja is the founder and chairman of Flux Ventures, a holding company that owns: one ‒‒ Flux Chargers, an ecommerce store that sells the Flux portable charger; two ‒‒ Flux.LA, a digital marketing agency that focuses on SEO and PR; and three ‒‒ Young Slacker Media, a series of websites that cover anything from blockchain news to viral content. His company also launched an IOS game called Poos Caboose, an algorithm to trade cryptocurrencies. And he’s just 22 years old.
In This Episode
Most people don’t know what they want to do or who they want to be when they are just out of college. Alejandro Rioja? He’s been killing it for years now and is just 22 years old. A native of Bolivia who grasped at the opportunity to study at UCLA, Alejandro worked hard and networked until his ultimate success. MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR sat down with this young serial entrepreneur to see how PR helped him in his efforts, how networking was crucial and with a bright future ahead of him, what types of things he hopes to learn moving forward.
1:05 Youth Does Not Equal Inexperience
At only 22, Alejandro has plenty of business ventures under his belt.
2:28 Meet More People
Networking is crucial and allows you to learn from those who have already made mistakes.
4:01 Put in the Time
10-14 hour days allowed Alejandro to become extremely efficient.
5:55 Public Relations Is Still Relevant
He sold items on the street to get his name known and then get his products on the review sites.
8:40 New Company, New Things to Learn
Now that he has stepped down from CEO and joined a new company, there are plenty of things to learn.
10:07 Life Goals
Build a long lasting company and go back to Bolivia to help others achieve the same level of success.
11:33 Knowledge Is Power
With so much knowledge at our fingertips and the ability to reach the global masses, entrepreneurs have a huge opportunity and responsibility in the modern age.
– Alejandro Rioja
LR: Welcome to Modern Ontrapreneur. I’m Landon Ray, and today I have Alejandro Rioja, who’s the founder and chairman of Flux Ventures, a holding company that owns: one ‒‒ Flux Chargers, an ecommerce store that sells the Flux portable charger; two ‒‒ Flux.LA, a digital marketing agency that focuses on SEO and PR; and three ‒‒ Young Slacker Media, a series of websites that cover anything from blockchain news to viral content. His company also launched an IOS game called Poos Caboose, an algorithm to trade cryptocurrencies. Holy Crap. I’m going to drop the obvious bomb, here, which is that this guy is 13 years old. Actually, no. He’s 22 years old. Thank you so much for being here.
AR: Thanks for having me.
LR: I’m already blown away that, even if all these things are total failures, that you’ve even been able to start this much stuff at age 22. What is going on with you?
AR: It’s been a learning experience throughout the whole Flux Ventures journey over the last two and a half years. The way we see Flux Ventures is something similar to what Richard Branson has built, although way smaller, right now.
AR: I really look up to him and identify with him where he’s built all these different Virgin companies. I would love to do the same with Flux. The way we’re approaching our businesses with Flux is mostly as a learning experience, where we are dabbling into different industries and different products and seeing what we can do best and what we like.
LR: What have you found?
AR: We started with our product, which was the portable charger, which is a charger that comes with built-in cables for IOS as well as Android. We noticed that the success of that ecommerce business was all about the marketing online sales that we were doing. So, we launched Flux LA as a business to do the marketing for, not just ourselves, but our friends as well. We noticed that more people wanted those services, so we grew that company into an actual company. Then, from the revenues of both companies, we started doing other projects, as well, such as what you mentioned, the sites and things like that.
LR: I usually ask this question of people who are going to look back over their careers over maybe a decade or two, but you’ve got three years under your belt. What tip would you give your 18-year-old self that would have made this easier?
AR: I graduated high school in Bolivia in 2012, December, and I had ‘til September of 2013 to come to UCLA. So, I had about nine months to start doing something. I started a company with a friend. It was a CraigsList for Bolivia type of stuff. We did advertising and things like that. That was the first company. Then, we did Flux a couple of years later. I’ll tell myself is to meet more people. One of the biggest things that moved the needle in Flux was the fact that I was able to network with people that were 10, 100 times, a 1,000 times ahead of me, and that could teach me what they have done and what I should and should not do in my own business.
LR: Did you systematically approach those people or create a system around reaching out and using those relationships?
AR: It first started organically, people that I’ll meet at conferences or people that I’ll read about on newspapers and then I decided I’ll reach out to them. Then, I went a little more systematically, and I started finding people on Facebook that were in my same industry and adding them and chatting with them and see whether there was any collaboration.
LR: And that’s turned into something valuable?
AR: Definitely. I learned so much from so many different people. There’s some very valuable groups on Facebook and websites that I regularly visit to learn more.
LR: Awesome. You’ve got a lot of things going on, obviously a busy guy, also in school, or you graduated now?
AR: I just finished UCLA this year.
LR: Congratulations. What is your unique skill set, do you think, that has allowed you to take all this on and be successful at it?
AR: I don’t know if it would be unique, but one of the biggest things that helped me manage all this was actually putting in the time. I will put a lot of time into the business and try to learn how to do things more efficiently. I may put in 10-14 hours a day working on it. Also, the fact that, once I did something, I wanted to make sure the next time I did it, it was more efficiently, either through scripts or through a process that I could follow that was fool proof, that I could either delegate to someone or do more mindlessly. Like I said, the businesses were built somewhat logically. We started with the ecommerce business. We noticed that we needed sales coming from SEO and PR, so we did that for our sales. Then, we noticed that we could do that for someone else. The things that we were doing will benefit each other. The more sales and marketing that we were able to accomplish for one company will definitely directly help the other one. Those two revenues will fund Flux Capital, which was what helped us find other projects, as well.
LR: Which one of these businesses do you spend most of your time on today?
AR: I just quit my job.
LR: Of course you did.
AR: It was in August that I stepped from CEO position to chairman. I saw that my cofounder was excelling with really good leadership, so we decided to have him as the new CEO. I left and moved to a different company. We are now memory hardware at UCLA at a company called Inston. That’s a company led by a professor at UCLA. He saw what I was doing at Flux. He liked the energy that I was putting in and he decided to bring me onboard as well there.
LR: So, you’re going to actually turn the thing into a business?
LR: What kind of breakthrough did you have with any of these businesses that feels like the thing that is working right now that you could share with our audience?
AR: The thing that worked for us and transformed our business was PR. When we started the business, we got a box of chargers and we put them online and no one bought it from our site, because no one knew our site; no one knew our product. We had no traction. What we did was, we took those chargers, went to Santa Monica Third Street Promenade and sold them in the streets.
AR: Yeah, hustling a couple hours every weekend. We started getting some capital so that we can reinvest it into online efforts.
LR: I love it.
AR: We were doing that. We were making some progress, we were making some progress on the SEO side. One of our keywords for this particular product was portable chargers. If you search that keyword, you will see that the top 10 results roughly are from review sites that will compile this. So, we had to reach out to them, one by one. I went from top to bottom, because that’s the best use of my time. I reached out to them and I follow up and follow up and it wasn’t really successful with that. Then, I found that the best way to reach out to the writer was in this three channels: Twitter first, then Facebook, then email. What worked for us, because we were a hybrid product, was to send them a free sample and see what they thought. There was no obligation of a review, just seeing if they would like it, and then they could write a review.
LR: And then they did?
AR: They did. Digital Transporters is Number One. That completely changed the whole game. Through that review, we were able to leverage that review and ask what they thought about it. Then they were more willing to look at our product.
LR: The thing I take away from that is, you have a lot of pretty methodical, strategic, thinking that goes into what you’re doing. It’s not like magic. It’s like, “I need money. I’m going to go hawk this stuff on the streets. I need to get on this website. I’m going to call them up.” You also obviously are bringing a lot of method and systematization from Day One to this process. Where does that even come from?
AR: I said I worked 10-14 hours a day, but actually it’s learning half of that time, and the other half I implement what I learn. I spend a good amount of time reading websites on marketing, finding tutorials on YouTube and chatting out with people that are, as I mentioned, ahead of me so they can share their own tips and things like that.
AR: Watching this podcast, for example, and things like that.
LR: Well, it’s impressive. What are you working on right now? What is your own personal cutting edge? What are you learning?
AR: Throughout this past four years, I have tried to focus on personal development. When at first I’m going as a freshman, I set myself a challenge of meeting one new person a day. I was successful in there. It was very easy to meet people in college and things like that. I did that because I didn’t know anyone when I got here, and I wanted to grow my network. Now, my personalized challenge is to grow on the business side and learn, especially at Inston, which requires me to learn a lot of business and semiconductors, I guess knowledge. I’m investing my time in learning different skills in venture capital and fundraising that I wasn’t exposed to at Flux because of the nature of the business. It was more of an ecommerce business. Now, this one is a more hardware, cash-heavy business.
LR: You’re going to have to figure out how to go raise a bunch of money?
LR: Interesting process.
AR: Yeah. At Flux, I was a CEO and at Inston, there’s a board I have to report to. It’s been a different experience. At Flux, I was the obstacle of what we could do because up to what I learned is what we could do.
AR: On the other hand, there’s a lot more senior people that are able to guide me and show me what’s possible, and open up my horizons and tell me what to learn and where to get it.
LR: Great. I normally ask this question of people that are much older than you, but if you can imagine at age 22 what you might wish your legacy to be, what do you think it might be, 30, 40 years down the road. What would you have liked to have created?
AR: There are two things that I want to do before I die, I’d say. One of them would be to build a long-lasting company, one that creates products. I think that might be Flux or that might be Inston, that creates products that change the lives of people, that people know this brand and identify with it and then they can see what we’re up to, something similar to Apple or things like that, is something I have been really passionate about since I was very young. The second thing is going back home to Bolivia and setting that thing up there. The opportunity that I’ve had is not coming. I’m the exception of being able to come to the US. I’m very aware of that, and I’m also very lucky, and I’m also very grateful. I would like to even out or just help out some of the people in Bolivia I think deserve the opportunity but don’t have it, to go back there and set up something there as well. Those two things would be what I’d like to do.
LR: We have called this thing MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR. The point of that is to try and take a look at what the unique opportunities of this moment in history are. Things are changing so fast and entrepreneurs have new kind of opportunities and also maybe new responsibilities as leaders in our communities. What do think those are in this unique moment?
AR: I think the big opportunity is the knowledge sharing economy that is currently, right now. You can learn anything on Google. I sometimes find those excuses of people that say, “I don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to do that,” a little childish sometimes. You can learn all those things on YouTube, Google, things like books. I think that’s a very important thing, that we can learn a lot of things. Also, it’s a unique opportunity in the sense that we can reach a lot of people through social media and through different channels that were not available a couple years ago. And impact and shift customer perceptions and mindset. I think it’s a good opportunity but it’s also a big responsibility that we have in the sense that we shouldn’t make people think the wrong things. We should be careful about the power that we have and how we distribute that knowledge.
LR: Well, Alejandro, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for being here.
AR: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
LR: All right. Will you sign our wall?
AR: Yeah. Absolutely.
Want more MODERN ONTRAPRENEUR Podcast?
Check out the previous episode featuring Holly Chantal of The Land of Brand.