Entrepreneur Profiles–Christopher Cummings

What is the name of your companY
Curiosity Media, Inc.

What industry/sector would you classify it in?Technology/Media

How long has it been running? How many people are involved?
Company started in 2005; Website was started in 1999
There is one full time Spanish teacher, a part-time programmer, my wife who is the accountant, contractors, and myself

What is the business idea? How will this have an impact on the world?
Curiosity Media owns and operates the world’s largest online Spanish language reference and learning website, More than 3 million people visit SpanishDict each month to take advantage of the site’s professional-grade dictionary, translation, and language learning technology. The site features videos that teach Spanish, flashcards to practice vocabulary, multiple dictionaries with hundreds of thousands of translations, and a social network that allows people to connect with one another to practice the language.All of this is provided free of charge. The site generates revenue from advertising.

How did you arrive at this idea/insight?
My brother launched the site in 1999 while he was a graduate student. His wife is a native Spanish speaker, and he noticed that the options for translating words on the internet were limited. Together, they launched a simple dictionary with the unique contribution of recording the audio pronunciation of thousands of words. The site served a simple purpose and served it well. Over time the site grew to become the most popular Spanish dictionary.

What challenges did you face balancing your HBS course load and starting/ running your business? How did you manage this?
Fortunately, the website allows for flexibility in the time that is required to maintain it. The biggest challenge is to finding time to launch new projects that will help the site continue to grow. I try to work on these projects when school is not as demanding. Over interview week, for example, there was time to design the iPhone App for SpanishDict and talk to contractors about building it.

How did you leverage the resources available to you in HBS for your business?
HBS has a number of formal resources through the Rock Center. I am a part of the venture creation program. I also was able to go on the IXP to Silicon Valley. I think the most valuable aspect of HBS, however, has been the opportunity to meet and talk to people about the business.

What HBS class/ case/ protagonist/ professor was most helpful in starting/ running your business? How?Every class has contributed tidbits of wisdom. I think I’ll be able to know what’s most helpful a few years down the road.

What’s the best part of being an entrepreneur? Worst part?
Worst part: Fear of failing. The weight of responsibility knowing that if something goes wrong, it was probably your fault.
Best part: Pride of creation. Satisfaction of a thank you note from customers.

What is the most important piece of advice you’ve been given regarding starting a business?
For internet based businesses, the three most important things are: distribution, distribution, and distribution.

March 2, 2009
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