Hi there, this is Slava Agafonov again. I want to start a startup series about entrepreneurship, and I call it to boot camp. In this series, I will share some knowledge that I received from the community, books, and different United States programs over the last five years. Over the previous five years, it was an incredible journey that will never stop for me with my Technology MBA program at the University of Washington. I created a startup called Energsoft Inc. It was a lot of competitions in Berkley University, California Technology, InnoStar competitions in China, business trips to Germany, Japan, Estonia, Canada, and many other places on the globe to learn, absorb and to expand my imagination on the topic of entrepreneurship. I am going to share some things that I learned from mentors and folks from the University of Washington and other community. Enjoy!
One of the TMMBA alumni people, and he founded construction site automation with the cloud. The person that I am talking about is Dale Beard who was a finalist of the prestigious EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Awards program for the Technology category. President and Co-Founder, Intelliwave Technologies. Intelliwave Technologies’ Site Sense® products are global award-winning Web and Mobile-based software solutions for identification and tracking of construction materials, equipment, and workforce on all sizes of industrial, civil, and buildings projects.
- The idea came from their father’s work experience (engineering and construction)
- Technology re-use from the founder’s expertise in casino chip tracking
- The software tool can help to find materials that customer ordered
- Used experience from tracking systems in the different industries
- Two founders with four and two startups past experiences
- Peer technical founder (technology architect)
- Worked on the prototype and selected partner to beta test
- Iterated on the idea and worked on a scalable system
Lessons learned from Dale:
- You have to start the business for the right reasons. Follow your passions, not money.
- The more experience you get in your business and industry, the easier the fundamentals get, and more energy can be spent on growing the business.
- It is tough to get things done in the big companies in the corporate world, which stifles innovation.
- When you start, there will be failures and hardships.
- Keep improving areas that are working, focus on those areas
What did we do to adopt our vision and values? Get team buy-in on the benefits, and brainstorming can help.
We need to figure out our core values and solidify a company vision. Create a simple program to keep your core values a top of mind for the whole team. Recommended Jim Collins book, Good to Great:
- Core Values need to be few and easy to understand. Amaze the Customer (treat the client like gold, we solve the problem right away).
- At least we let them know that we are working on it right away – amazed the customer. Continuously Improve – continuous improvement (Toyota production), personally and corporately.
Take Care of Each Other. Look out for one another.
- Core Values need to be apart of company procedures such as in the performance reviews, and team members need to be thinking about core values in the performance review. End of the year on Christmas party, find the best team member for each core value and give cash awards
- What you need to run the business is mainly learned from experience on the job. What I know today versus ten years ago is very different.
- People management is something that you have to learn on the way you go. We did not hire the right people in the beginning.
Think about how you can delegate to move faster, and we are a bit better now.
- Today problems are different than versus startup: mostly HR and scalability are primary problems today we are working hard at
We still work many hours, as we did at the beginning
There were things we couldn’t plan for in the beginning, as the scaling of large data sets
- Startups are like a roller coaster; although in retrospective, some bad days seems are not bad as you thought they were. There’s luck involved too.
- The lack of revenue is deadliest for a lot of companies. Sometimes contracts get canceled, that’s the nature of business. And sometimes those client’s come back. Always be hunting for a new business to make sure you grow your top line!
- The first product you made was particular and focused.
How were you able to make it generic for many customers?
The prototype we tested on the hardware that we bought, it was sensor data, and we were able to check the GPS location where it was done.
- The first three hardware sets were not best, and we are not using them anymore, so we improved, and now we do better, we had to start with something
- You have to build a prototype and take a calculated risk to check if it is going to work or not. You have to get some feedback to start iterating. The first product feature set was elementary, which also limited our market potential. Today we are on release 8.11 Web software, so we’ve iterated a lot.
- Jeffrey Moore - Crossing the Chasm.
- Crossing the chasm is extremely difficult for most tech startups. Once you do get to the mainstream, the clients need full functionality and robust, reliable systems. Your first product releases typically don’t hit the mark of mainstream requirements, so you need to iterate and deploy often.
- The Lean Startup book by Eric Ries describes product iteration. You have to go for early adopters and see how it goes.
- Two things worked in our favor:
The massive pull of technology graduates, not competing with more prominent companies. The University of Alberta has an excellent computer science program.
- The Canadian dollar was on par with the US dollar when we started, but today we see an enormous benefit in charging in USD but paying our bills in CAD (office space, salaries, etc.)
- Execution of the ideas is what sets apart entrepreneurs. There are many ideas, but those that execute well will create valuable companies.
- Find the people that are passionate within your business – keep promoting and challenging them.
Market validation is what you are looking for at the beginning
Read a lot of books and seek advice
- Continue to grow Intelliwave and expand the product set. We want to use our industry knowledge and fill gaps in the construction industry further. I created a successful partnership with an early adopter. It is hard to validate the idea, but probably most great ideas are a bit crazy – that is why they still not exist
- Research your market and purpose, and there are typically already studies done. We looked at market studies and academic papers. Execute, execute, execute!
Here is a funny video about validating the idea, scaling too fast from Guy Kawasaki.
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