How Recognizing a Problem Is the Key to Starting a Successful Business
Originally published by Andrew Yang on the Venture for America Forbes Blog.
Brian Bosche and Dan Bloom were video guys who started TernPro in 2014, a company that sent GoPros to companies that needed content for their websites. They spent countless hours neck-deep in content, trying to make compelling videos out of hours of not-so-great footage. This meant having teams of people working on different tasks, like producing, editing and communicating with the client.
One day, Brian looked at Dan and said, “This is nuts. I’m using five different systems for project management, asset management, reviews, editing and communication. I find myself doing as much work trying to organize workflow as I do on the work itself.” Dan agreed and said, “Someone should really come up with a better system for this.” That thought hung in the air for a while, and shortly thereafter, Slope was born.
Today, only two years later, Slope is a content production software company with a growing client list that includes Microsoft and Title Source. The way Brian and Dan got there carries lessons for entrepreneurs trying to build companies in niches everywhere.
Solve a problem you’re familiar with.
Brian and Dan had lived the problem and felt the pain point. Says Brian, “Every creative I knew was toggling between email, Basecamp, Dropbox and Wipster and then back again. Heck, half of them were just using Google Docs, spreadsheets and crazy e-mail chains.” Because they had such deep experience as filmmakers themselves, they understood how creative teams operated and communicated.
This helped them understand the product and communicate the product’s value to customers. “We knew what features would make our lives easier, and those are the first ones we built.” They also could speak directly to people who were running content production teams because they had done it themselves. “It’s a lot easier to have a conversation about the ins and outs of film editing when you’ve been in the editing room yourself for hundreds of hours.”
Find the right people and don’t get discouraged.
Brian and Dan shared a common vision for the product. But, neither Brian nor Dan was a software developer. “We knew there was a need, but neither of us could build it,” Brian says. They set about trying to find someone to join the team who could lead the product team. Their first two hires didn’t work out, and those two false starts took them about a year to sort out. On their third try, they found their man, Kyle Gostinger, who now runs a team of developers in their Seattle office.
“People sometimes thought we were crazy trying to build a software business when neither of us was a coder,” Brian says. “It took us a few tries and tons of networking, but we eventually found the right person. We just refused to give up.”
Understand that cash is king.
While they were going through months trying to build the product they imagined, the costs mounted. “The wrong hire is expensive — it’s not like anyone gives you your money back,” Dan said. “We were sinking money into trying to get this product off the ground and trying to raise money for our new company. But money rarely came in when we thought it would, so we just had to make it work.”
They continued to do video production work to pay the bills. “At the time, it felt like defeat that we were taking assignments just to keep the lights on. But we learned more about the production process with every project. Now, some of those clients are now Slope customers, partners and even investors.”
After launching in September 2016, Slope is now signing up new customers every day. “The most satisfying thing is when a team uses Slope and now can’t imagine going back to their patchwork of systems.” With Slope, the only direction Bosche and Bloom are heading now is up.