Last week marked ideaBOOST’s first Entrepreneur Evening at the Spoke Club. Each month we invite serial entrepreneurs to join us for an intimate discussion, and to offer up advice on running (and selling) a successful technology company. This was also an opportunity for our community of ideaBOOST’s past and present to mingle with each other.
Our first speaker of the series was Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify, a Waterloo-based next generation eLearning company that combines gamification with brain science to revolutionize the way companies think about and deliver training to employees. She has an extensive history of taking in turmoil companies such as PostRank and RSS Solutions, and turning them around into successful exits.
The overarching theme of the evening was based around Carol’s professional philosophy: If something doesn’t work. Just deal. Over the years, this wisdom has served her well. It forces Leaman to act on a problem when needed, whilst giving her the discretion to pull back when a realistic solution isn’t possible.
Here is a taste of the insights Carol had to offer new startups at the Entrepreneur Evening:
- Marketing Matters: Don’t underestimate the value of marketing your product. Even at a grassroots level, its impact can be monumental. However, you should also balance out your marketing needs with the budgets you have available. As a small startup, you don’t want to spend on pricey services such as PR right away, as at your stage there won’t necessarily be a return on investment.
- Cheap Ways To Market: There are several methods for new startups to market itself at low cost. Carol suggests applying for awards, competitions, speaking engagements, and conference appearances as often as you can, while also utilizing the capabilities of social media.
- Transparency is the Best Policy: When interacting with investors, be confident about your product. But at the same time, don’t oversell yourself as it will present you as being naïve and will ultimately come back to bite you when you fail to deliver. Being transparent and natural is the best policy, as it demonstrates a good understanding of your company and the market.
As an angel investor herself, Carol indicated that not all companies are salvageable and not all product ideas are good. When evaluating a company, she looks for the following four success factors:
- Does your product have an existing market?
- Is it a good fit for the market?
- Will the entrepreneur be an effective leader?
- Is the timing of your product right?
Over the next two months, CFC Media Lab will be hosting more ideasBOOST Entrepreneur Evenings. Stay tuned as we keep you up-to-date on these events.