Creators of Waterloo | Riley Donelson, Co-Founder of Pout App

By Trilby Goouch August 13, 2015


How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?

I make apps for your phone!

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?

I remember wanting to be a lot of different things as a kid… an engineer, a musician, and a doctor come to mind.

What did you learn from your biggest failure?

A big failure for me was not getting any of the jobs I wanted when I finished school. Looking back I’m extremely glad that I didn’t, because I never would have got the experience I have now running a startup. I’ve since learned so much more about not only design, but everything else that goes into a company too. A big takeaway for me is how product design can be improved with the knowledge of what’s going on across each facet of the business – the importance of good cross-team communication!

Do you have any formal education? What was your favourite class?

I studied Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo, which I really loved. My favorite class was called Linear Systems and Signals… it was one of our first classes where we got into some real juicy engineering problems, and we had an amazing prof! Things started to click for me in that class.

What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur? What practices, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work?

I think just buckling down and taking on whatever challenges the day throws you forces you to grow a lot! It feels like time passes differently in a startup – like dog years. You pack so many different types of tasks into a day that looking back a year, or even a few months, can seem like ages ago.

I play music every day and do weekly songwriting sessions with a few friends, which contributes a lot to exercising the creative mindset. I find there are a lot of parallels between “designing” music and designing an app.

What are you reading right now?

I’m a bit of a book juggler… reading mostly non-fiction startup related books right now!

I’m reading Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares, Venture Deals 2nd edition by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, Losing The Signal by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, and Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison.

What technology, apps, websites do you use on a day to day basis?

Oh there’s plenty! I use Pout a lot throughout the day – go figure 🙂 Looking at what I’ve got open now, there’s Gmail, Rdio, Photoshop, Illustrator, Calendar, Google Drive, our analytics tools, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, We Heart It, about 12 tabs of YouTube, and of course… Netflix. Tech-wise I use an iPhone 5 and a 15” Macbook Pro.

Who would you most like to have dinner with?

I’d like to have dinner with the design team from Google Ventures. I really look up to the work they’ve done and their thought leadership in the industry. I think I could learn a lot from a good conversation with them!

What are you proudest of in your life?

Getting a design internship at Apple is definitely up there!

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?

I’d say my family has been the biggest influence on me. I’ve got four siblings and two awesome parents, and I think we’ve all shaped each other a lot growing up. Hard work, a positive mindset, and a “you can do anything you put your mind to” attitude have really stuck with me.

What’s your favourite quote?

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” – Max Ehrmann (from Desiderata)

What’s your productivity secret?

Reminding myself that it always feels better to just do it. That, and trying to respond immediately to emails and phone calls… which is a challenge for me, but I try 🙂

If you had fifteen extra minutes each day, what would you do with them?

More exercise! It’s often what gets squeezed out of a busy day for me.

What advice would you give to the new entrepreneurs and future students?

Go after what you really want! You have a unique blend of freedom, amazing talents, and energy that will empower you to do remarkable things. This is the time to do it!

A look at the Pout app:

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