Ben Mones, 29

Fama Technologies Inc., which uses machine learning and natural language processing to analyze a job applicant’s public digital presence for indicators of risk, culture fit, and performance.

Employees: 12

Financials: Raised $2.7 million in seed financing and is backed by Double M Capital, Amplify.LA, Miramar Digital Ventures, Wavemaker Partners, and TGK Ventures.

What led you to start your own business?

I started Fama after experiencing the problem (evaluating a job applicant) that our solution is currently solving for today. I missed critical information about a hire that was plainly available

on that person’s online identity. That visceral experience, combined with a love of enterprise software, sparked my desire to start building a team to solve that problem.

Where did you get the startup money?

In the early days, it was all my personal savings, and then we were seeded by Amplify.LA in mid-2015. Amplify provided us the access to capital, customers, and mentors we needed to get off the ground quickly.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

The definition of a first-time founder is self-explanatory; there’s a lot of iteration at the product, sales, and operations levels, respectively. Navigating that landscape can be difficult and, at times, isolating. I’ve tried my best to surround myself with mentors and advisers that have been there before. Some of the best conversations I’ve had are when I shut my mouth and just listen.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?

There are new lessons every day, which makes this job so exciting. But one of the most memorable lessons I’ve learned I heard from a client. He runs one of the biggest volunteer organizations in the country and told me, “Experience is the best education, but it charges the highest tuition.”

How many hours a day do you put in?

Fama is definitely not a 9-to-5 job, but it does not feel like work.

Has your youth led to any awkward situations, such as when you supervise older employees?

My age doesn’t play into or effect my management style, but it has come up with customers. We gave a presentation at one of our partner’s sales conferences last fall – attendees included executives from companies such as Kaiser Permanente, Home Depot, Adobe. The keynote that preceded my talk was all about how to engage with millennials in the workplace. I assured the audience members when I got up on stage that although a millennial, I speak the same language and observe the same cultural norms.

Would you start another company?

Undoubtedly.

Could you ever work for someone else?

With the right team, absolutely. You can realize many of the benefits of entrepreneurship working for another person – it just depends on the team and role.

What do you do to unwind?

I like to play basketball – great chance for me to get into the flow of the game and not think about anything else. I also read voraciously and hang out on the beach whenever I can. The quality of life in L.A. should be a major draw for any founder – headquarters in Santa Monica has its perks.

– Garrett Reim

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