What did you like best about your experience in the VentureSpur acceleration program?
Kent: For me and the company, it was the exposure to the knowledge and experience that the mentors and seminars provided. That was really valuable.
It is a little bit of a drink from a fire-hydrant type of approach. Though some of the things were not immediately applicable to our business, I think hearing from entrepreneurs who have been successful as well as the other companies that were going through the program was really beneficial.
The other part of the exposure was connecting with the venture capital community and the investment community. That is a whole different learning curve.
What kinds of challenges were you facing when you entered the accelerator?
Kent: The challenges that we faced when we were looking at accelerators really came down to scaling our product, our customer base, and our team. We were fortunate to enter the accelerator with a growing business with customers. So, the scalability portion for us was growing and accessing a new customer base and leveraging the business we had built to take it to the next level.
There were a lot of challenges that, after joining the program, we realized we were facing that we hadn’t before. But, initially, we were trying to figure out how to plant our flag and say, “This is where we’re headed. This is the problem that we are solving.” Then make decisions that are consistent with solving that problem.
How did the accelerator help you get over those obstacles?
Kent: The mentors and the seminars help. The seminars force you to address every area.
We were already doing everything that a business has to do, but we weren’t working at the level that we eventually hoped to get to. Forcing ourselves to answer those questions with the expectation of receiving funding and moving to the next level is a lot different than answering them when you are kind of in your own bubble.
When we started we had six employees. With each workshop topic is was difficult to think about implementing those actions with only six employees, cash flow, and customer service to think about. It’s one thing to thing about then, but it’s completely different thing to think about when the team is going to double or we’re going to have money in the bank and people to hire.
What person that you met through the accelerator really stood out in regards to their impact on the company?
Kent: TJ Person did one of the initial seminars. After he talked, our lead developer and I just sat in there and talked with him for about forty-five minutes because he just opened our eyes to what was possible. He had no agenda. He was asking questions about our business and was really excited.
With his trajectory for his first company and with Koupon Media it was literally worth the whole price of admission. I ended up getting the chance to meet with him a few times, even the day before the Dallas Pitch Day to run through my pitch. He was the kind of guy who had made really big decisions that were really successful, but he’s also just a really great guy.
It’s great when you find that person that you can identify with and learn from. That kind of stuff can’t be taught in a seminar, so being able to ask questions and find support was really huge for me specifically.
What was it about TJ Person’s workshop that helped you?
Kent: TJ did something on “10 Things to Learn from an Accelerator.” The “AHA!” thing was that he threw out some numbers and a trajectory and said you could be a $100M company with these things. When he said that I was like: “What? That’s crazy!” Then I started looking at our numbers and realized that, if we grow the same percentage that we are now in the next five years, we could have the revenue that could make us into a $75M or $100M company.
My thinking started changing at that point. The possibility was a little more cemented as he shared his story about the company that he sold and the company that he started with a few pieces of paper that he pitched to an accelerator. It was pretty exciting.
How did your business model change during the program?
Kent: I think the big change that was begun by the accelerator is that the resources we gained helped us out of our kind of bare bones mindset. We are trying to do things in a bigger way. It’s a little more expensive, but it is consistent with the trajectory in which we’re heading.
Our thinking went from a ten-thousand food view to a thirty-thousand foot view. I originally thought that my ten-thousand foot view was thirty-thousand, but, as I look back over the last six months, the opportunity, vision, and decisions that we are making now after funding and Pitch Day are more consistent with a larger company.
Whereas, the strategy model and decisions that we were making before were based on: “Well, I sure hope we make it. And, if a lot of things happen right and we get lucky, then we’ll make it.” Now, we’re looking at everything and thinking: “Okay, we’re making it.” We just have to think a little more confidently and a little bigger picture.
What is the largest change in your company since the program?
Kent: The biggest change has been our team. Since the accelerator program we have added four members and we are about to bring on a two more. That will make our company double. And it’s not just the numbers of our team, but the caliber. We have more experience on the team now. We were spread really thin with the staff that we had before. Now we’ve brought on a leadership team, advisors, and developers. It’s been a pretty massive change.
What was the best part of the mentoring experience?
Kent: It was hard to find time to really dig in deep with our mentors. We had so many and, obviously they’re busy and we’re busy. It’s a lot. There’s all kinds of nuggets that we can go back to and say, “This was helpful.”
I think what I and our company needed was this hope of what is possible. Some startup people seem like they know what is possible, but they just don’t have the team to get there. We felt like we had incredible opportunities and we were fortunate to have a business that was growing. But what we needed was to that person that really does believe in you and says, “Yeah, you really do have something.”
What did you like best about Pitch Day?
Kent: As you go through the program, your ideas and your business is validated to a certain extent. But, when you are actually validated by people who aren’t there to validate you, that’s an exciting thing. It does create a lot of clutter while you are trying to find the signal amongst the noise.
There are very few times in life that people are really interested in what you are doing and they want to interact with you and explore the opportunity of working together. So, you want to enjoy those times. Having people interested in what you are doing is exciting. It’s a great way to end what you have been working on for so long. The energy and the interactions were fun.
What advice would you give other startups about how to glean the most information out of the process?
Kent: We were unique in that we had customers, for the most part. If someone had a startup where they had the ability to get some traction before the program, I would say go do it and get as much traction as you can. It is just really valuable.
The other thing I would say is if they aren’t in a spot where they just have an idea, go for it. Not every company has to progress in the accelerator at the same pace. It is okay to just spend the three months honing, building, and scrapping with that idea. Know that traction is important for both investment and your business, but you don’t have to be at the same level. Depending on where they are with their idea and their product, I think you can get traction pretty quick. If you can’t that’s maybe a sign.
If you just have an idea, put it together and pitch it. If the right people like it, assuming it will get traction at some point, go for it.
Do you feel like you VentureSpur has helped you integrate into the startup community?
Kent: Jumping into the Dallas startup community has given us great connections and resources. It is great to be around people that are trying new things. The startup community really does want to help.
For more information about OrderMyGear, check out their website: www.ordermygear.com!