The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business produces Bootstrapped, a podcast featuring founders, investors and serial entrepreneurs. While the podcast covers many aspects of startup life, the heart of the show focuses on funding from both the founder and investor perspectives, thus the name Bootstrapped. The podcast is hosted by Elana Fine, Managing Director of the Dingman Center, and Joe Bailey, Associate Research Professor at the Smith School. Each episode starts with trend stories from the hosts, moves onto an interview with a special guest then closes with a segment titled, "Kickstarter or Not?" Tune in to hear insights into startup life and venture creation.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed UMD alumnus, serial entrepreneur and President and CEO of ThreatQuotient, John Czupak. Before ThreatQuotient, John worked at Sourcefire in a variety of roles from 2002 to 2013, until he ultimately engineered a $2.7 billion acquisition with Cisco, the 3rd largest pure play cybersecurity acquisition ever. In this episode, John discusses the approach, mindset and key factors that cybersecurity startups must implement to be successful in a competitive environment.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed venture capitalist and UMD alumnus Gary Swart. Gary operates out of Silicon Valley as a general partner at Polaris Partners, a Boston VC firm that invests in technology and healthcare companies. Prior to his role at Polaris Partners, Gary was CEO of oDesk, a job-search platform that aimed to be the number one destination for job-seekers looking to work remotely. During his eight-year stint as CEO, Gary gained keen insights on customer acquisition, global expansion and staying ahead of competitors, lessons that as an investor he imparts to the entrepreneurs he works with. In this episode, Gary describes the challenges of being CEO, the key factors a startup needs before seeking investment and the differences between the startup ecosystems of Boston and Silicon Valley.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Kathryn Stewart, an investor in private and public equity and a member of the Dingman Center Angels and Board of Advisors. After spending 10 years working as a partner at Alex.Brown covering healthcare and technology, Kathryn wanted to give back and help others by creating jobs, so she started to invest in companies that utilized technology in order to make an impact. In this episode, Kathryn discusses her personalized approach to how she invests in entrepreneurs, and reveals the attributes a startup needs to draw angel investors.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed veterinarian Dr. Mark Olcott, co-founder and CEO of VitusVet. After losing a pet patient because he couldn’t access their medical records on a weekend, Mark started VitusVet to electronically connect pet parents and their care providers to improve the health and safety of all pets. VitusVet capitalizes on the two-sided market of the vet industry by creating a platform that streamlines the customer service experience, keeping pet parents happy and practices in business. While researching his business model, Mark looked to other industries suffering from similarly outdated, paper-driven customer service practices and found some unexpected parallels.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed academic turned founder, Dale Nirvani Pfeifer. Less than 4 years ago, when Dale recognized there was a need to bring philanthropic giving to the next generation, she started Goodworld. The company allows non-profits to receive donations through hashtags and shares on social media sites. Dale's first VC pitch was brutal but it taught her to think bigger about her potential market reach. After raising nearly $3 million in VC funding, Goodworld has successfully bridged the funding gap between non-profits and Millennials.
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we spoke with serial entrepreneur and CEO of Halen Brands, Jason Cohen. Cohen walks through his journey from being unable to pay his phone bill to selling 5 companies worth over $500 million, including brands like Sensible Portion Veggie Straws and SkinnyPop, the two fastest growing “better for you” snacks known today. Dubbed as the 'club king' of packaged foods, Jason highlights the importance of targeting high quantity distribution channels such as Costco to augment your reach toward popular outlets like Whole Foods. Tips on how to hire top talent with no startup capital is also covered.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we spoke with Brian Taff, serial entrepreneur and President of Streetsense, an experience-focused strategy and design collective. Brian talks about the changing face of retail and the need to create a personalized experience for customers. The goal of brand marketers is no longer about authenticity as people see right through that, Brian claims; it's about making the brand approachable and meeting customers' expectations. Brian discusses how to get customers to be not just promoters, but defenders of your brand.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we spoke with former NFL Cornerback and former NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth. After seven years in the NFL, two of which he served as NFLPA President, Foxworth pursued his MBA at Harvard Business School. While enrolled at Havard Business School, Foxworth discusses how he went from investing in bonds to investing in startups. When evaluating whether to invest in an entrepreneur, he cites soft skills as key to the decision-making process. Understanding an industry and coming up with a viable idea is the easy part, according to Foxworth. Your level of self-awareness, coachability, and motives can make the difference between a venture’s success or failure.
On this episode of Bootstrapped, we talk football with Grip Boost founders Matt Furstenburg and Chanda Arya. As a former NFL player, Matt was familiar with the shortcomings of football gloves. After receiving half a million dollars in seed funding through organizations such as TEDCO and VOLT, the founders iterated for almost 2 years. With NFL's enormous budget, they appeared the segment to target. Instead, Matt focused on the less famous segment of sports teams—high school athletics, which makes up 95% of the market. Five years later, Grip Boost is sold in 70 stores across the US, selling apparel for football, baseball and golf.
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Ursula Mead, founder of InHerSight.com. The website easily appealed to users eager to rate their experience as a female employee. Unlike other job sites, InHerSight.com gathers data on the female perspective and became a prime location for companies looking to recruit women. Ursula monetized her company by selling data insights back to the companies rated on her site. Now three years old, InHerSight.com has over 170,000 users and 30,000 companies on the website.
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interview Elise Whang, CEO and Co-Founder of SNOBSWAP. As an avid consignment shopper, Elise got the idea for SNOBSWAP while working late hours as an attorney unable to access second-hand finds online. With brick & mortar only consignment stores losing approximately 30% of their potential revenue, Elise found an 'in' to this traditionally winner-take-all market. Supply-side customer acquisition was as straightforward as googling "best consignment stores in LA" then pitching their idea to a select target list. Now 5 years after their launch, SNOBSWAP is turning down about 50% of the stores that apply to be on their site.
In this episode of Bootstrapped, the Dingman Center's Entrepreneur-in-Residence and 1776 Startup Mentor Bob London discusses marketing. During a time when there is a constant 'war for customer’s attention,' London advocates for listening. If your start-up is not getting customers, try asking someone, "what would make you a customer for life?" Starting with a customer’s 'elevator rants' or complaints about a product or service makes for a solid foundation for a new enterprise.
Imagine you are in front of a venture capitalist, what are you going to say that will convince them to invest in your start-up? In this episode of Bootstrapped, we interviewed Terp alum and executive coach Glen Hellman. Serving as founder, mentor and venture partner for multiple organizations, Glen knows a lot about getting funding. Glen explains that using story-telling to engage the reptilian brain in your audience helps move people toward action and increases your chances of wooing investors.
On this week's episode of Bootstrapped, we talked with Aviva Goldfarb, founder of the Six O'Clock Scramble. This online meal planner offers busy parents health-conscious solutions for the daily scramble of cooking a family dinner. Aviva admits "my biggest competitor is free." Aviva monetized her idea through a membership model, offering dietitian-approved recipes that can be made quickly, along with a mobile grocery list. By requiring customers to submit a credit card to activate their free trial, Aviva has managed to gain a sizable following with a 60-70% customer retention rate.
In this episode of Bootstrapped, we spoke with Brad Sayler, co-founder & CFO/COO of Spotluck. The app is an asset for both restaurateurs and foodies alike offering up discounts to customers while driving foot traffic to restaurants. One might ask-- how did a lawyer get into app development? Brad says, "you don't need to have a computer science degree" to get your product going. He stresses the importance of separating form from function when developing prototypes. He turned to knowledgeable friends and family for the initial bootstrapping of Spotluck. Brad admits satisfying both sides of a 2-sided market is challenging but knowing that there is an ever-changing formula keeps the customer base growing.
Ann Yang and Phil Wong, the co-founders of MISFIT Juicery, started their cold-pressed juice company in their dorm room at Georgetown University with a hundred pounds of peaches and a borrowed blender. A social venture, MISFIT transforms "ugly" fruits and vegetables into visually appealing, delicious juice that disguises its "misfit" origins while combating food waste. Through bootstrapping and a scrappy willingness to ask for help when they needed it, they managed to grow MISFIT into one of the hottest local food startups. After graduating from Halcyon Incubator, they secured funding from angel investors including the Dingman Center Angels, and are currently one of six food startups around the country accepted into the Chobani Food Incubator. In this episode, MISFIT founders Ann Yang and Phil Wong discuss the passion and tenacity required to run a social venture, the secrets of their strong branding strategy and the power of asking for help.
Whether you are the sole founder or co-founder of a start-up, equity can play a major role in the growth and direction of your company. Andrew Sherman, Partner at the Seyfarth Shaw law firm, began his career with a successful start-up in aerobic tennis. Today, he advises entrepreneurs on the brass tacks of drafting stock options, exit strategies and aligning managerial responsibilities with equity. Accustom to asking hardball questions like, how to value sweat equity, what are the income needs of the various stakeholders and how to link expertise to equity, Andrew encourages entrepreneurs to do an (often free) preliminary attorney meeting in the early stages of a start-up.
Micha Weinblatt founded his first company, Crooked Monkey, in college at a bar. While sitting at legendary bar Cornerstone, just off campus from the University of Maryland, Micha considered how the traditional college t-shirt could be re-fashioned. Like any true entrepreneur, he started a company that produced cool, graphic t-shirts and called it Crooked Monkey. The shirts are now sold at Bloomingdale's, Urban Outfitters and other chic retailers. Seven years into the venture, Micha got what he calls the "7-year itch" to start something new. That something is Betterific, a platform where ideas and innovation can be crowdsourced. In this episode, Micha talks about how he funded his startups and the one thing every investor or entrepreneur should know before investing in or launching a startup.
In this episode of Bootstrapped, hear about the crafty beginnings of beloved University of Maryland apparel company Route One Apparel. Founder Ali Von Paris used her vast UMD network and her social media savvy to create an online following for her start-up. Witty, regionally-driven products like the 'Get Loh' t-shirt and Terp-themed tailgate tents were an instant hit throughout the UMD community. Now four years old, Route One Apparel has 40 employees and offers over 1,500 products.
Cold calling was one of Tien Wong's least favorite aspects of his career in real estate finance. Learn how he turned that challenge into CyberRep, Inc. which is valued at $1.7 billion and is now one of the largest call centers in the world operating under XEROX. Tien, a self-proclaimed introvert, is also the founder and host of CONNECTpreneur, a community of 5,000+ CEOs, entrepreneurs and angels. On this episode of Bootstrapped, hear how Tien went from being an entrepreneur convincing his own customers to invest in his startup to becoming an active angel investor.