Catalog Choice co-founder's advice to entrepreneurs

(MoneyWatch) Raise your hand if your mailbox is as full of junk as your inbox? (Mine's up.)

Chuck Teller, executive director of Catalog Choice, wants to help us cut the clutter. Through Catalog Choice's free service, users can opt-out of big mailers like catalogs, coupons and credit card offers. So far, the site has processed more than 20 million opt-outs for 1.4 million users. Teller joins The Startup to address the dangers -- yes, dangers! -- of junk mail, and explains how putting an end to all the extra leaflets, brochures and fliers can protect you from more than just a lot of paper cuts.

Rebecca Jarvis: What were you doing before you started your company?

Chuck Teller: Prior to Catalog Choice, I was the general manager of Enterprise Performance Management division at PeopleSoft. We provided analytic and budgeting applications to large enterprises. The company was in the process of a hostile takeover from Oracle and it was a natural time to step away from the business.

RJ: How long did it take to turn your idea into a business?

CT: My colleague, Daniel Katz of the Overbrook Foundation, introduced the idea to me in the summer of 2006. Daniel, the chairman of Catalog Choice, lead the funding process. He brought together several partner foundations to create a committed base of foundation funders by the beginning of 2007. From that point, it took us around six months to define, design and build the initial version of Catalog Choice. The service was officially launched on Oct. 9, 2007.

We have chronicled the evolution of our funding sources in this blog post. It was not until the end of the third year of operations that we started getting funding from our members. Within the next three years, we got the business to the point where it was cash flow positive.

RJ: What's your number one piece of advice to entrepreneurs?

CT: Listen to the customer. Talk to as many customers as possible. This is the best way to learn what is working and what needs your attention quickly.

RJ: If you could ask one person for advice, who would it be and what would you ask?

CT: I would meet with Marc Andreessen. I would ask Marc to tell me what he thinks of my product and how would he improve it.

RJ: Are you hiring? How do you get hired by a start-up?

CT: We are always looking for talented, motivated employees. If you want to work for a start-up, I would:

1. Use their product if that is possible 2. Read their blog, Facebook fan page and Twitter feed 3. Reach out to them