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I Asked 3 Successful Entrepreneurs To Share Their Game-Changing Lessons
Courtney Guertin, Andrew Gazdecki, Taylor Hersom
Happy Monday everyone!
It's been a while since I last shared an article with you all—4 months to be exact. I have to admit, It didn’t feel right to give advice based solely on reading about startups.
I'm relaunching the newsletter with a fresh approach. Each article, I'll reach out to three successful entrepreneurs and ask them for their advice.
So, without further ado, let's dive into today's post.
#1 Courtney Guertin- Scaled a B2B SaaS to 75k Clients, Raised $68M, and Recently Sold It!
In 2015, Courtney co-founded Ease, an online benefits enrollment system used by 75k insurance brokers to manage 3.5M employees.
Starting small in Minnesota, they have since raised $68M, became a top player, and were recently acquired by Employee Navigator.
A commonly repeated yet crucial piece of advice is: put your product in front of potential customers early and gather their feedback. Holding back until you've achieved a flawless product, only to discover it doesn't meet your customers' needs, is a waste of time.
After identifying the initial use case, the next crucial step is to focus on distribution. More often than not, distribution plays a larger role in a startup's success than product perfection.
At Ease, we launched a straightforward yet effective solution for brokers in MN, focusing only on medical enrollment underwriting. Despite its limited scope, we received positive feedback and users wanted more. This early validation allowed us to draft a future product roadmap and turn our focus towards expanding our reach.
We identified channels - primarily partnerships with related businesses - that could improve our product visibility without the need for traditional advertising. Our goal was to collaborate with other firms who could also benefit from promoting our product.
In our sector, we partnered with firms that had existing relationships with brokers. We integrated our platform into their services, incentivizing them to recommend our system.
Building and nurturing these partnerships requires time and consistency. However, once established, they serve a dual purpose - protecting your business by providing a competitive edge and driving your sales.
Achieving product-market fit is just the start of the journey. A successful company/product also requires focus on distribution and likely the nurturing of strategic partnerships. Embrace the learning process and remember - success often takes time.
#2 Andrew Gazdecki- Sold 2 Startups and Current Founder of Acquire.com
Andrew is the founder of Acquire.com, a marketplace for selling startups valued at over $100 M, he previously founded a mobile app developer while still at college and grew revenue from zero to $10m+/ARR before selling it to ESW Capital.
It Takes a Long Time to Build a Business. A lot of people give up too early. Sometimes it can take two years just to get your first customer.
Case in point, it took me eight years to grow Bizness Apps to an eight-figure business and then be able to sell it. And my business before that, Phone Freelancer, was the precursor to Bizness Apps.
So, overall, I spent a decade focused on making it in the mobile app industry. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t feel like you can commit five years to your business, I don’t recommend starting it.
#3 Taylor Hersom- Launched Cybersecurity Startup and Grew Revenue to $6 M in 2 Years
Taylor quit his job as a Chief Information Security Officer at a local firm in Austin in February 2020 to search for a new job, but then, COVID hit and all the interviews dried up.
After consulting on Upwork, he decided to open his own Cybersecurity startup which he grew to $6m in revenue in 2 years.
I think it's important to note that we inherently want to 'follow the crowd' as it's in our nature, but finding success in general requires you to identify when you should be copying the crowd versus when you should be zigging when everyone else is zagging!
We fall into this trap of wanting to copy our competitors or operate just like the businesses/entrepreneurs we look up to, and I was no different with Eden Data. We are a consulting firm and initially, I tried to be like the consulting firm I came from (Deloitte) and the other companies that I followed.
We charged by the hour, did the project rates, offered to come onsite, blah blah blah. It wasn't until we pivoted and changed our service into a subscription very similar to the startups we sold to that we were able to stand out and define our own destiny!
And that's a wrap, folks! I really hope you found this week's post packed with valuable insights. I'm eager to hear your thoughts on this new format, so please reply to this email and let me know what you think.
👋 Hey! In each article, I ask three entrepreneurs to share their game-changing lessons, subscribe to get the next one in your inbox
Till next time!