Behind the Founder: Keith Fix // Retail Aware

Behind the Founder: Keith Fix // Retail Aware

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 own perspective.

What’s your name?

Keith Fix

Where are you from?

Norfolk, NE but raised in Omaha

How did your upbringing influence you today?

I had a middle-class upbringing for the most part. However, when my parents separated, my mom and I ended up in a shelter. I started building websites for cash going into middle school, which is what led me down the path I am at today.

Whether you’ve met them or not, who is one REAL person that has influenced you?

I’ve been so fortunate to have many amazing business role models in my life. However, as it relates to my current tech startup (and I’ve told him this story before), if it weren’t for Dusty Davidson I probably wouldn’t have stayed in Omaha. 

 

He came and spoke to one of my undergrad classes. He sold me on the idea that you could have a meaningful impact in a community like Omaha. He helped me see that you can start, grow and exit a tech company right here in the Silicon Prairie. At the time, venture money was only in the San Francisco Bay Area, startups weren’t cool, entrepreneurship wasn’t a buzzword, and developers didn’t seem to stay in Omaha. So, this was nuts! 

 

But my dude practiced what he preached. At the time, Dusty had a software consultancy called Brightmix here in town. He’d later go on to co-found Silicon Prairie News, Big Omaha and co-found/raise venture money for Tripleseat which moved to Boston and Flywheel which just sold for an undisclosed amount to WP Engine after growing to several hundred employees. 

Who is one FICTIONAL character that has inspired your life/career and why?

This sounds bad, but I’m a non-fiction guy. So, I can’t say offhand. 

From a sketch on a napkin to officially starting up, what triggered the inception of your company?

I was running a digital signage integration business. Our largest end-users were brands selling into brick-and-mortar. The lack of data and visibility at the shelf level made it impossible to prove ROI on the fixtures and displays they were putting into stores. There had to be a better way. 

 

After I sold my integration business, I moonlit on the problem with a technical partner until we built the initial solution. What was important is that we built alongside our customers, using both my domain expertise in the space combined with real-world validation, testing and failure. We were never married to a specific technology or idea, but rather the problem(s) we were solving for our customers. 

 

It didn’t become a real viable business until we landed our first large customer last year. So you could say we were an overnight success two years in the making. 

How did the founding team meet?

I can’t stress how important it is to be involved and connected to the community you want to work in. If you want to build a startup, it’s the technology/startup organizations, groups, meetups, and events you need to be plugged into. 

 

Over the years I’ve been active in local events/orgs like 1 Million Cups (fun fact: I was an ‘OG’ presenter at Kauffman Labs in KC), Big Omaha, BarCamp, TechOmaha, UNO’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, Pipeline, NMotion, StartupWeekend, Startup Collaborative and more. I’ve also attended out of state events like the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, SXSW in Austin (this year was my first!), and others in San Francisco, Chicago, Denver/Boulder, and NYC. 

 

It’s taken a lot of mileage, but every great partner I’ve worked with has come from this network. Our founding team included. One of our members came from Collaborative, another from Big Omaha/UNO C-E-O, and another who I met through networking – we previously worked together on another project. 

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level was the most challenging for you, your company and why?

They all had their challenges. The hardest part for me was staying focused on the next deliverable while also operating the business. We had so many moving pieces to our business – designing, building, executing hardware, software, store installs, vendors, sales, customer support, fundraising, building out the team, etc. – looking back its overwhelming to even think about everything that’s gone into getting us even to this point.

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level has been the most rewarding for you, your company and why?

Hands down, the fundraising level. It was that external validation we’ve built something bigger than ourselves. But don’t be fooled, it’s like jumping into the next chapter where the obstacle course just gets bigger and you just extended the time clock enough to get to your next milestone.  

Presently, what does a typical day look like for you and your company?

There is no typical day. My days are mostly spent stalking/emailing/talking to customers, traveling to industry events/trade shows, meetings, putting out fires, taking care of business needs, working with the team, laying out roadmaps/plans/budgets/proposals and the many nuanced tasks that seen to creep up throughout the day. 

What’s next for you and your company?

Sky’s the limit. Our vision is to connect the world’s retail. It’s not often you have the right ingredients to make really impactful change in an industry, but our team, partners, investors, and customers are incredible and hands down the group that can help pull it off. 

 

My three priorities for the rest of the year are (1) tightening up our current offerings, (2) securing follow-on orders from existing customers and (3) closing a few key new accounts. Business 101 stuff. But easier said than done, right? 

 

We’re launching new wireless micro sensors and announcing a new product next quarter. Traveling to London to meet with strategic customer/partner next week. Doing more speaking engagements (find me! —> www.groceryshop.com/speakers). Exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco the first week of October! 

 

And so much more.

First Steps to Starting Up // Download our Free Pre-Validation Packet

First Steps to Starting Up // Download our Free Pre-Validation Packet

Our inherent belief is that anyone can become an entrepreneur. With our unbiased and objective-based approach to building tech startups, we can help accelerate both first-time and long-time entrepreneurs.

Taking those first steps into starting a company can be incredibly intimidating, though. The most common question that people ask is: “How do I get started?”. With our Pre-Validation Packet, we’ve simplified this process even further. Condensing both LEVEL 1 and LEVEL 2 of our methodology, we challenged the traditional accelerator and incubator approach to provide everything the public would need, available with full transparency.

Your first step? Simply schedule a brief, digital conversation (what we like to call “virtual coffee”) with a TSC team member. This will help to ensure that our process is clear, as well as allow anyone the ability to dive deeper into any questions they might have toward building a startup. 

The next step? Download the Pre-Validation Packet and get to work! Think about that problem that you want to solve and who would most benefit from a solution to start compiling a customer list. No matter what your intended solution might be, this is your chance to conduct market research. Removing your own bias to the solution might feel uncomfortable, but it is imperative to gain the most sincere and crucial feedback from the customer. 

Through surveys and interviews, which we provide clear step-by-step processes to complete, founders are able to tap into what the market is most adamantly looking for. The logic behind this is simple: Build a tech-based solution that the customer and industry are desperate for. We’re looking for ideas that swing for the fences, all while solving those BIG problems for their customers. Rather than you hoping you come across that idea yourself, let your customers tell you themselves!

How to Prepare for the Nebraska Angels // A Q&A With Stephanie Luebbe

How to Prepare for the Nebraska Angels // A Q&A With Stephanie Luebbe

Stephanie Luebbe is the executive director for the Nebraska Angels. She joined the organization in early 2018. Stephanie joined the angels after a career at Hudl, Conagra Brands and Walmart, where she specialized in market development and merchandising. Since joining the angels, she’s elevated the organization’s operations and increased the number of active angel investors in Nebraska. 

The Startup Collaborative is a proud partner to the Nebraska Angels and works alongside Stephanie to ensure that fellows who are seeking capital know the ins-and-outs of fundraising from angel investors. 

Q: Stephanie, tell us about the Nebraska Angels.

A: The Nebraska Angels network was formally organized in 2006 to provide structure around angel investing in Nebraska, making it easier for startups to find investors and for angel investors to manage funding requests. Our mission is to provide high-quality investment opportunities to our members while building the entrepreneurial community. Over the last decade, our members have deployed over $27M in early-stage, high growth companies. Members are passionate about start-ups and helping entrepreneurs scale with the necessary capital. The Angels’ portfolio consists of forty-four companies, with two notable exits of EyeVerify and Flywheel.

Q: Give us the 101-version on what angel investment means.

A: Many entrepreneurs seek capital (other than their own funds) at some point during the life cycle of their business. Where capital is sourced often depends on the industry and maturity of the business.  The various sources of capital include grants, friends & family, angel capital and venture capital. Angel investors will most often invest through convertible preferred stock or convertible notes. 

Q: In our region, when do the Nebraska Angels like to invest in a company?

A: Entrepreneurs tend to seek angel investment when an injection of capital is necessary to take the company to the next level in terms of market penetration, customer acquisition and key hires to expand the team.  Tangible metrics include a product that’s live in the market with some level of a customer base that is paying for the product and/or service. This can vary significantly by industry, however, for a SaaS business model we like to see monthly recurring revenue of +$20,000. Most Angel rounds are usually in the range of $250,000 to $3,000,000 for capital raised. 

Q: As a startup, what are the key things you should do to prepare for fundraising?

A: Engaging our group early on in the process will allow for in-depth discussions and assessment of the most optimal fundraising path with our members and syndicate partners. Specific materials that are required for an application include a pitch deck, anticipated terms, cap table, historical financials and a Pro-forma of at least three years. Also, ensure you seek legal counsel that specializes in startup formations and financing transactions prior to pursuing investors.

Q: What questions should entrepreneurs anticipate from angel investors?

A: Early-stage investors will want to understand the journey of the company, starting with what motivated the idea for the business to how scalable your operations are. Rather than preparing the “perfect pitch” for investors, consider telling a story that others can relate to, peppered with data and metrics that make the investment opportunity appealing. Every entrepreneur and start-up faces challenges along the way, and angels will want to see how you can learn, lead and pivot through those times. Check out this list of questions as you assess and prepare for taking on outside capital. 

Q: What is the entrepreneur’s process from the application on your site to securing funds?

A: The estimated length of the entire process is around 60 days from submitting an application to the collection of funds. A step-by-step guide of the process can be found here. If our members are not interested in funding a company, we try to reach that answer in a much shorter window as well as provide feedback to help founders with future fundraising efforts. Every angel investor approaches their decision-making process differently; our goal is to help streamline the process with centralized diligence efforts, organized meetings, etc.

Q: What are the top reasons an entrepreneur is not selected to present to the Nebraska Angels?

A: In most cases, the timing is too early to capture investor interest and founders are asked to come back once they’ve gained more traction in the market. Another limiting factor is the size of the attainable market and whether it can support growth that could eventually provide angels with a +10x return on their investment.

Q: What’s one more thing you’d like to add? 

A: Raising capital is not easy and usually a lengthy process. The more you can learn and understand about taking on outside investors before actually doing so is highly encouraged. Take the time to apply a valuation to your company and prepare your presentation.

 

Behind the Founder: Joshua Hample // Certified Cell

Behind the Founder: Joshua Hample // Certified Cell

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 own perspective.

What’s your name?

Joshua Hample

Where are you from?

Originally, Victoria, British Columbia

How did your upbringing influence you today?

My parents always encouraged me to explore, ask questions and never be satisfied with the status quo. This also meant that I needed to get off my butt and spend time outside and my room was never clean enough for their liking but it certainly laid the foundation for who I am today.  

Whether you’ve met them or not, who is one REAL person that has influenced you?

Elon Musk – he’s a visionary and is always finding ways to challenge the way things are done. 

Who is one FICTIONAL character that has inspired your life/career and why?

Tony Stark comes to mind – clearly, the fictional version of Elon also finds creative and innovative solutions to the world’s most complex problems.

From a sketch on a napkin to officially starting up, what triggered the inception of your company?

There was a clear problem that needed to be solved. With all the technology we have at our fingertips it is shocking that there are still people meeting strangers in parking lots with cash to buy/sell their phones.

How did the founding team meet?

We were trying to find ways that our respective businesses could do work together unrelated to Certified Cell. 

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level was the most challenging for you, your company and why?

The first few were the most difficult for us because we wanted to run before we would walk and the difficulty was overcoming my initial frustration and realizing the process was what we truly needed. I am definitely thankful we slowed down and did our due diligence in the beginning – it was game-changing for us.  

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level has been the most rewarding for you, your company and why?

It’s certainly always nice to get to a point where you trigger funding because money is a tough nut to crack at times. To know there is a group of intelligent people who have validated your business to the point where they’re making the decision to invest in your future is a very liberating feeling. 

Presently, what does a typical day look like for you and your company?

Can I insert a picture of someone with their hair on fire here? The word “hustle” comes to mind and there is no other way to describe it. Is starting up easy? No, it’s not but the time, energy, passion, and love you put into the business doesn’t feel like work. Instead, you’re growing something for you and your family and even though some days feel like you’re trying to run in quicksand there are others that feel like you’re flying. Comparing the days of working for someone else and the days working for yourself – there are infinitely more days where you feel like you’re flying.

What’s next for you and your company?

We are going to keep up the hustle. We have aggressive goals for the company and we know it’s going to take everything we have to achieve those goals.

See? Everyone Can Startup!

Behind the Founder: Tinashe Mahupete // Dream Catcher

Behind the Founder: Tinashe Mahupete // Dream Catcher

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 own perspective.

What’s your name?

Tinashe “Nash” Mahupete

Where are you from?

Zimbabwe

How did your upbringing influence you today?

My parents grew up in racially segregated, colonial Zimbabwe. I was born after Independence and my parents who had lived in a society that saw them as 3rd class citizens raised me to believe that I am no better than anyone…or less than any other person. My parents treated everyone with kindness and respect. They also taught me the definition of success: Being pleased at the end of the day that I have applied myself to the best of my abilities with a positive attitude. 

Two things were important to my parents: That we never went to bed hungry (in an environment where for others, this was not guaranteed), and the second was that there was always “Love” in our home. 

I carry all those experiences with me today. 

Whether you’ve met them or not, who is one REAL person that has influenced you?

Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living” 

He was unjustly thrown in prison for almost three decades for having a dream of equality. When he was finally released, his Dream had not vanished. If anything it had become more intense. He did not hate those that had taken his freedom away, instead, he showed them compassion (Not sure I could do that). He didn’t waste his energy on emotions towards the oppressors. He kept his emotions focused on his compelling Vision for a free and equal South Africa. 

Madiba taught me that to attain your Dream, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination”

Who is one FICTIONAL character that has inspired your life/career and why?

Not sure if I have been inspired by fiction much. One of the characters I liked are from a book, “Matigari” I read when I was 14 years old. It is by Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o. 

The character, “Matigari” is a freedom fighter who returns from the wilderness after laying his weapons aside at the end of the wars of independence in his country. He returns to find the government changed but the status quo preserved. The book is written as a part allegory, part parable and part fairy tale. The author gives the reader no firm grasp on chronology or the boundaries between the magical and the real. What emerges is a moving surrealistic tribute to the spirit of independence and the challenges facing newly independent nations like my own, Zimbabwe. 

From a sketch on a napkin to officially starting up, what triggered the inception of your company?

My experiences at my job, QLI where I started almost two decades ago is the reason for my company. I was fortunate to join a company that views and treats team members as vital and integral to the success of the mission. QLI is heavily invested in people’s development at work, and also in their lives. Organizations deserve hardworking and loyal team members. Team members deserve companies invested in them. Dream Catcher helps solve that problem. This leads to succession planning, a great pain point for the majority of businesses. 

How did the founding team meet?

Network introductions

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level was the most challenging for you, your company and why?

Messaging. Truly differentiating Dream Catcher and focusing on the problem I am solving. 

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level has been the most rewarding for you, your company and why?

All have been very helpful. However, every step of validation has been vital. Validation not only helped me to get to the crux of the issues but helped me get to know who my customers are while also building an early relationship with them. 

Presently, what does a typical day look like for you and your company?

Constantly working to launch. I have a book I have written tied to the concept I am building through the Startup Collaborative. Currently, increasing book sales has been a focus. 

I am also managing the team working on building the platform and continuing with the testing process. Raising funds has been critical as I am boot-strapping.  

What’s next for you and your company?

Launch the software to the early adopters and focus on getting Dream Catcher to other organizations so that they can enjoy the bliss of coaching for Succession Planning.

See? Everyone Can Startup!

Behind the Founder: Andrew Prystai // Vesta

Behind the Founder: Andrew Prystai // Vesta

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 own perspective.

What’s your name?

Andrew Prystai

Where are you from?

Omaha, NE

How did your upbringing influence you today?

My family is filled with entrepreneurs – including my mom and step-dad. I think seeing it first hand, the good and the bad, always made me interested in the “career path” of being an entrepreneur.

Whether you’ve met them or not, who is one REAL person that has influenced you?

Beyond my family one of my professors at Creighton, Dr. Kauzlarich, heavily influenced me deciding to go full bore on entrepreneurship and helping equip me with the skills I needed to succeed (and was also helped in large part by a number of other AWESOME professors at Creighton)

Who is one FICTIONAL character that has inspired your life/career and why?

I’d have to say Dumbeldore because he showed great character, compassion, and curiosity – three qualities that I believe are essential as a great leader and entrepreneur.

From a sketch on a napkin to officially starting up, what triggered the inception of your company?

Breakthrough Weekend got me to take the plunge from a concept into a company – and from there we’ve kept going from the market validation and momentum we’ve built.

How did the founding team meet?

Network introductions

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level was the most challenging for you, your company and why?

Level 8 was our most challenging because we had to demonstrate why we were building features and figuring out was necessary vs what wasn’t. It’s a brutal process to cut the unnecessary features – but incredibly valuable.

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level has been the most rewarding for you, your company and why?

Level 9 – it was awesome to take our haphazard sales and marketing language and start refining it into a potent message!

Presently, what does a typical day look like for you and your company?

A mix of building the product and talking to customers to get them on board and making sure we continue to build the right thing

What’s next for you and your company?

Scaling in Omaha for Vesta and then expanding into other markets

See? Everyone Can Startup!

Behind the Founder: Carina Glover // HerHeadquarters

Behind the Founder: Carina Glover // HerHeadquarters

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 own perspective.

What’s your name?

Carina Glover

Where are you from?

Omaha, NE

How did your upbringing influence you today?

I am the oldest of three with my siblings and I all being 4 years apart. At a young age, I was always ‘in charge’ and had a high level of responsibility. I grew up in a leadership role and much was expected of me, not only the oldest of the children in the house but the oldest of all my cousins. Growing up, I was always an ambitious leader and my parents consistently reinforced that I could be whatever I desired to be in life. They were supportive, they pushed me, and my dad specifically had a standard of excellence that really molded me. For this reason, my standards are high and no matter how ambitious the goal is, I will always 100% believe that it can be achieved. 

Whether you’ve met them or not, who is one REAL person that has influenced you?

Maybe I have not personally met her yet, but Beyonce is real and she is my biggest existing inspiration, for both my life and career. She’s not only an entertainer and performer but a businesswoman. I’ve always known deep in my heart that at some point in my career, that I would be elevated to being in the public eye. I admire how she balances privacy and being internationally known. Her standards of excellence, how strategic and intentional she is in business, how she uses her platform and status to change people’s lives, and how no matter how successful she’s become, she never robbed God of his credit and the doors he’s opened for her. Beyonce inspired me to think bigger, to not just think about today’s success, but to think about longevity, about building a legacy, and being intentional in all decisions so that my future great-grandchildren can also reap the rewards of my hard work. I’m also inspired by my future children. On the days that I feel overwhelmed with all the challenges, I refuse to give up because of them. I want to be their first role model and to give them the best life possible. I want to be prepared to make that impact on my children’s lives, so I think about it daily and have decided to make the sacrifices now, so they can enjoy it later.

From a sketch on a napkin to officially starting up, what triggered the inception of your company?

I experienced the consequences of not having the courage to partner with other women and women-owned brands in the past. Once I had the courage to begin collaborating and saw the value in it, like millions of other women entrepreneurs, I experienced the challenges in securing quality brand collaborations.  I witnessed women across the country experience the frustrating and time-consuming process for years, while simultaneously feeling like I wasn’t on the right path career-wise. I wanted to work with women entrepreneurs and raise the bar in how they were catered to, but for months I couldn’t figure out in what way that impact would be.  The idea of HerHeadquarters finally came to me in the middle of the night. The next morning, I got to work. 

How did the founding team meet?

I met my co-founder, Neosha Broadway, at an event. She came up to me afterward and when we began talking I felt an immediate connection with her and a ‘she’s the one’ feeling. I knew that I was open to the idea of having a partner and that I needed one, but I hadn’t officially started scouting. I had only gotten as far as to write down what I was looking for in a partner. We went to dinner the next day and it was only further confirmed that she was perfect. 

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level was the most challenging for you, your company and why?

The hardest level was transitioning from a prototype to starting development of the app. I didn’t have the skillset to build it on my own or the money to hire someone at the rates I was being quoted. Just months prior I had experienced a head-on accident that resulted in my car being totaled and me being in the hospital. I took a big financial hit as a result of the accident, having to get another car and not working for weeks. My savings was cleaned out; I felt financially frustrated and business-wise, I felt stuck and unable to move forward. I remember receiving quotes from development companies as high as $115,000 and feeling like I couldn’t even afford to look at that number.  

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level has been the most rewarding for you, your company and why?

The earliest levels, where you have to validate the need for your product by doing surveys and interviews with your target market laid the foundation of success for HerHeadquarters. I was able to establish partnerships with designers, developers, and even other brands based off the knowledge and statistics I discovered during that stage. Since then, every decision I’ve made regarding the product and future plans is highly based on the early knowledge we gained from doing that research and new users. It also gave me credibility, making it easier to land national press, further increasing the brand’s exposure.

Presently, what does a typical day look like for you and your company?

Each day varies, I schedule focus days for specific things. My most common tasks range from collaboration match-making sessions with current users, an interview with a media outlet, meetings with potential brand partners, team meetings, scouting and emailing potential investors, and lots of strategy sessions! 

What’s next for you and your company?

We’re planning to release HerHeadquarters Version 2 later this fall. This version includes new features that give users a more powerful and customizable collaboration experience. We also plan to release in three additional cities before the end of the year: San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago. We’re also working towards raising our first seed round of funding. 

See? Everyone Can Startup!

Behind the Founder: Chris Jones // loophire

Behind the Founder: Chris Jones // loophire

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 own perspective.

What’s your name?

Chris Jones

Where are you from?

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas grew up in Omaha 

How did your upbringing influence you today?

Growing up I was given the freedom and support to explore different paths which allowed my independence to flourish rather than be restricted. Basically, my building blocks to becoming a founder.  I’ve always had a very strong belief that anything can be accomplished if you create the right formula and possess the “I’m making this happen” mindset. A lot of who I am today stems from amazing family and friend support allowing me to continually create projects and businesses. 

Whether you’ve met them or not, who is one REAL person that has influenced you?

For this specific project (loophire) and my career as a recruiter was inspired by my brother, Brad Jones. He’s a super talented and well-respected leader in the Human Resources community in Omaha. I was in the nightlife/bar business for about 8 years before entering HR. As my nightlife career was coming to an end I went to Brad for advice. I felt I could succeed as a recruiter and asked if he’d take a shot and hire me with this firm. He (respectfully) declined, for a number of legitimate reasons, but most of all I didn’t have the experience or training to be successful in his operation. It’s the best NO I’ve ever received. I’m not one to be deterred, so I landed a recruiter role at a franchised staffing firm that focused on temporary labor. It truly was a start from the bottom, let’s see what you got type scenario. It was gritty, eye-opening and nowhere near the glamour of owning a nightclub which was my last profession. This helped me grow as a person and offered a beautiful shot of humility. I succeeded and was offered a position with Brad’s company and we worked together for 3 years. He’s not only family and one of my dear friends, but a mentor and a voice of reason to my struggles. Thanks, Brad.

From a sketch on a napkin to officially starting up, what triggered the inception of your company?

I launched my own recruitment firm, CJM Recruitment Partners in February of 2018 with the purpose of re innovating the staffing industry. Many of the practices are super archaic and I felt by leveraging technology and my personal recruitment process I could offer a better product. While launching and operating CJM, I was continually exploring products and brainstorming ideas of how my process can better serve candidates and businesses. A lot of whiteboard time, until it woke me in the middle of the night…

Combine the most proven effective hiring methods/processes, create consistency with both the candidate and hiring manager using specific recruitment technologies AND franchise theory, I could build the ultimate solution within one software and replicate it a million times over. 

My knowledge in the staffing industry has allowed me to witness so many pain points and struggles within our current hiring system. I pieced together solutions and eliminated unnecessary steps in the process to build what is now called loophire. 

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level was the most challenging for you, your company and why?

The beginning. Building validation and people questioning my theories. After spending months and months creating something based on the knowledge you’ve gained professionally over the last 7 years, it was tough to have others question your ideas and offer constructive criticism, at times. This is CRUCIAL for growth. When it’s your idea or profession it’s easy to become narrow-minded and think you know it all. Erica, Nathan and others helped me welcome all questions and challenges to ensure I’m creating a product that everyone will understand and deem useful. 

Within The Startup Collaborative, what level has been the most rewarding for you, your company and why?

The Lean Startup Method. Building your product/company through validation was fantastic. I’m accustomed to the “business plan” method which can leave a lot of room for guessing rather than really knowing what your customer segment actually wants or cares about. Step by step the program helps you create your vision into a reality. 

Presently, what does a typical day look like for you and your company?

We’re still in development but approaching the pilot phase in September. Presently, our focus is on the branding side and beginning to build messaging campaigns that will help bring awareness to the pilot and eventual launch. 

What’s next for you and your company?

Launch the pilot, go to market and change the hiring industry.

See? Everyone Can Startup!

Behind the Founder: Kent Landholm // fomopay

Behind the Founder: Kent Landholm // fomopay

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 own perspective.

What’s your name?

Kent Landholm

Where are you from?

Elkhorn, NE

How did your upbringing influence you today?

Great family environment. Growing up in a small town you get involved in a wide variety of activities such as sports, band, etc. Learned how to fix things and build things. 

Whether you’ve met them or not, who is one REAL person that has influenced you?

My Uncle Jay was a mechanic. He could take anything apart, figure out how it worked, and fix it. Sometimes it took many attempts. I learned it is Ok if it takes many attempts. 

Who is one FICTIONAL character that has inspired your life/career and why?

Batman. Gadgets, Applying science to solving crimes, Kicking the bad guys butt….. 

From a sketch on a napkin to officially starting up, what triggered the inception of your company?

The most recent one, Found Motion, was triggered as a result of the prior one ending.

How did the founding team meet?

Over many years of working together in other companies.

Presently, what does a typical day look like for you and your company?

The startup is a side gig at this point. Work on it nights and weekends. Mostly networking, fundraising, and some coding on AWS.

What’s next for you and your company?

Additional funding and doing some POCs

See? Everyone Can Startup!

Disrupting D2C // Direct-to-Consumer Companies at TSC

Disrupting D2C // Direct-to-Consumer Companies at TSC

The journey from the problem validation to that unforgettable first paying customer can feel punishing and touch-and-go. It doesn’t matter what kind of company you are building, there is a methodology to simplify the path to increase your odds of success.

This is why The Startup Collaborative exists in Omaha, NE. TSC is radically improving the odds of success for entrepreneurs who aim to build high-growth, software-centric companies. Most recently, TSC is seeing validation from a new generation of inventive founders disrupting the direct-to-consumer (D2C) eCommerce ecosystem.

With the increasing consumer-focused validation that is popping up from our founders, a rise of new D2C companies are transforming how we shop and how consumers make decisions online.

Here are a few proven D2C companies in TSC portfolio right now: