Often, startup stories focus more on the product and company than they do the people that made them possible. We at The Startup Collaborative have found that our mission statement to allow everyone an unbiased investment thesis to building their own tech-centric company allows us to step aside and let the entrepreneurs be center stage. The Behind the Founder campaign is meant to do just that — let the stories of those who call themselves TSC Fellows be told from their perspective.
What’s your name?
Where are you from?
How did your upbringing influence you today?
I’m a Nebraska kid — grew up on a farm where we learned to work hard and have fun and help each other out. In my Nebraska travels today I see those same values of hard work and neighbors helping each other from the Sandhills to the South Central rolling plains where I grew up.
Whether you’ve met them or not, who is one REAL person that has influenced you?
Barack Obama. President Obama epitomizes leadership and inspires hope in others.
Who is one FICTIONAL character that has inspired your life/career and why?
Doc Savage — Pulp Superhero from the 30s. Doc Savage and his team always used brains and technology to defeat the bad guys.
From a sketch on a napkin to officially starting up, what triggered the inception of your company?
I’d been calling on schools about three years when I realized the teachers and the students in my client schools should be collaborating on the content of their graphic art for their school digital signage.
How did the founding team meet?
We are a four-person LLC; one partner and I worked for the same company in the mid-90s, the two other partners I met through Lincoln networking events.
Within The Startup Collaborative, what level was the most challenging for you, your company and why?
Level 2 was both challenging and rewarding. Nathan Preheim had me go back and revisit existing K-12 clients I’d sold already and interview them again, but this time not trying to sell them anything but rather finding out what their challenges were. After 25+ years in sales, that was a bit of a switch, but the insights I gained were extremely valuable.
Within The Startup Collaborative, what level has been the most rewarding for you, your company and why?
Level 6 was very rewarding – it’s the level we’ve been on for most of this year as we’ve applied for the State of Nebraska Prototype MVP grant. We spent nearly five months getting our ducks in a row before we applied. In August we were awarded $25,000 through this grant. TSC and the extended TSC network helped me immensely: Nathan urged me to apply; Ben Williamson from Invest Nebraska helped me with the numbers on our business plan; Brian Harvey from Texty Pitch helped us fine-tune our software platform vision into a Statement of Work and of course Erica is always there to keep me moving towards our goal.
Presently, what does a typical day look like for you and your company?
I split my time between calling on new prospects for our existing K-12 Digital Signage business and working on the marketing for our new ViewPlace software.
What’s next for you and your company?
Our software MVP should be completed by January; so two years of plugging away under TSC guidance is paying off. This fall we are actively starting to market the product to our client base as well as to K-12 prospects