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Creativity Loves Constraints
35 minutes | Aug 7, 2020
Helping Companies Pivot Their Messaging During COVID-19 - Chris Burns, BConnected LLC
Chris Burns, an entrepreneur in his own right, is Director of Business Development for BConnected, a social media agency based in Appleton, Wisconsin. Chris found himself and BConnected helping other companies pivot their marketing messages as society started entering the COVID-19 quarantine. In the first several weeks of the quarantine, there was a large degree of confusion on what happens to marketing and the companies’ messaging. Through this process, BConnected became a guide to help companies navigate and execute on those questions. Let’s take a listen to Chris’ timely advice for companies of all types. One of the things that Chris said is “To win on social, exude empathy, care, and excitement for your customers.”Often we overthink content. Chris’ challenge to just get out there and care for your customers is well-put and well-timed words in today’s crazy world.
33 minutes | Aug 6, 2020
From Luxury Ride Service to Caring for Seniors and Their Families - Josh Massey, Founder and CEO, Carepool
Josh Massey always wanted to be an entrepreneur since graduating from UW-Madison. In starting his own recruiting business, he soon after created a luxury ride service called Alfred. After running Alfred for a while, Josh started thinking about other business models. He thought about his grandparents who needed speciality help with taxis in their hometown to get to doctor’s appointments and so forth. Then when a grant came from the city of Madison to help in the senior care market, the stars aligned and Josh completely pivoted. Check out his story as he shares one of the most dramatic pivots on the podcast. Josh and I talk about a concept of “energy” from a product/market fit perspective. Energy in the form of demand and excitement from customers. As startup founders, we should pay attention to such energy. Josh surely did, and it seriously paid off.
31 minutes | Jun 24, 2020
Re-Writing the Economics of Healthcare - Tiffany Mullen, Founder & CEO, Vytal Health
In the world of healthcare, Tiffany Mullen observed that both from a doctor perspective and patient perspective, both seemed unhappy. But Vital Health, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is changing the economics of healthcare to create a healthcare experience we all wish we had. One of the limiting economic factors was that healthcare’s business model was built on a function that quantity (number of patients seen) triumphes over quality (how effectively you help patients). The downstream effect of focusing on quantity is that often times doctors are meeting with patients for sometimes five minutes in an office setting, without being able to adequately take the time that the patients need. This makes doctors feel unfulfilled because they knew they could do better but were tied to the business model economics. And on the patient side, it made them frustrated like their needs were not being met. Vytal Health is a marketplace that brings together doctors and patients, for doctor visits that isn’t tied to typical business model economics, creating an amazing experience for both parties. Tiffany shares about the pivots she made during COVID-19. She shares the moment when she and her co-founder felt the bottom drop out and how her advisors shaped her during that time. And in observing the hospitals being overwhelmed, Tiffany led her company to a radical pivot in her revenue model. This conversation reminds me that I once heard Chamath Palihapitiya share different views on people and their decisions: You do what you think is right, independent of what the external, short term feedback loop tells youYou do what you read about and what you get credit for and what people tell you is interestingTiffany acted in the first category. During COVID-19, Tiffany led her company to do what is RIGHT in the short term so that Vytal Health can win in the long-term.
26 minutes | Jun 17, 2020
How Leveraging the CARES Act Could Be a Competitive Edge to Innovate, Create, and Dominate - Mark Benskin, Founder & CEO, The Tax Nerd
Mark Benskin from The Tax Nerd, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, opened up my eyes to a world that I don’t think about — the complexity of the CARES act could create opportunities that we didn’t see before.I’ll let him divulge the secret way that companies are winning — by leveling up their accounting practices. Check out the episode now.
36 minutes | Jun 12, 2020
When a Pivot is About Survival - Evan Friemuth, Founder, Venture Wisconsin
In college, Evan pitched in the finals of the Culver’s Business plan contest in front of some of the top entrepreneurs in Wisconsin. It was there that he got a glimpse of his vision of what Venture Wisconsin would become. Venture Wisconsin is a digital marketing media agency that operates out of NE Wisconsin, and looking to drive community, culture, and entertainment to the local area. Evan shares several insights along his journey, and redefines what it means to face a constraint. Evan shared three things which I really found insightful:1. Doing good and adding value to people even when you don’t compensated in the short term. In this time where the world has gone virtual, it opened up new leads in new markets that needed the distribution that Venture Wisconsin offered2. Some constraints in the market not only lead the way to pivots, but often navigating a constraint is about survival.3. He asked the question, “How do you integrate yourself into your environment so that you context is better off with you, than without you?”
23 minutes | Jun 10, 2020
The Sharing Economy Meets Daycare - Selwyn Jarvis, Founder & CEO - Ready, Set, Staff
Owning and operating a daycare center in Milwaukee, Selwyn Jarvis noticed a problem in his own business. Then, he talked to other daycare center owners and noticed it was the same challenge. When daycares are short staffed on a particular day, do they have any other options? Now they do — Ready, Set, Staff solves that issue by allowing daycare center owners to essentially borrow staff from other daycare centers who are underutilized for that particular day. Sel went through Young Enterprising Society’s Blueprint accelerator, which taught him skills of idea and market validation. He also shares the moment when he had to close his daycare center due to COVID-19, and how he’s looking to pivot around this with his platform and the company vision. Sel perfectly captured an amazing hack to test the market and get customer validation early — use existing software to stitch together the core value you are trying to deliver. Many startup founders are non-technical. And if that fits you, I’d encourage you to get really good at this hack. Leveraging existing process to simulate the value proposition we are trying to test. If we can’t produce a winning value proposition with products that are stitched together, then once must seriously question whether or not it’s worth building a product from scratch. It’s just one tool in the toolkit of idea validation in the early stages.
42 minutes | May 29, 2020
The Future of Community Collaboration - Adam Hardy, Founder & CEO, FutureState
Adam Hardy would agree that societal problems are harder than they need to be. Adam is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In every community, there are entities that serve the broader community K-12 schools, hospitals, after-school programs, universities, just to name a few. Each one of these entities has data on its members, students, patients, or customers. The problem is, the data between all of them is disparate and completely disconnected. Imagine tens or hundreds of pools of data around the community that, if joined together, can address the larger challenges of the community. -FutureState helps bring this disparate together and interpret what is working, and why it’s working, and identify causes of issues.Adam and his team developed a data aggregation software tool through partnership with United Way and Achieve Brown County. When these efforts received a strong response, he realized this may be an opportunity and founded Future State. His platform is now live with several customers. When COVID-19 hit, two software companies pulled Adam and Future State in to look to solve the needs for communities around the state of Wisconsin. Now, Adam is involved in high level conversations he never thought he’d have when this started. Adam’s story and the problem he solves for communities reveals an inportant insight about startups: The problem you are solving is often not the real problem that needs to be solved.Often times, there is the end problem, but there is also the ways and means problem(s).FutureState is solving a societal problem (end), but almost equally as important, it is also solving two other problems (ways and means): 1) A behavioral problem between actors in the ecosystem, and 2) A data ingestion problem.Ecosystem actors are used to having their data siloed. They are used to viewing and leveraging their own data. To institute the change that Adam is proposing, it changes the emotional equilibrium of the current market. How will entities respond when they have to share data? Will they feel threatened or insecure of what their community peers will see? Or will they embrace the change as moving towards the overall vision?With disparate data sets, one runs into the challenge of data cleansing, data integration, especially if there has not been integration previously.These two elements are vitally important to understand as problems because in many cases, overcoming obstacles such as these can be a source of competitive advantage in the market.
30 minutes | May 15, 2020
Pivoting to Kinetic Energy with Healthy Living and Charitable Giving - Seth Braddock, Founder & CEO, Kilter Rewards
Seth Braddock is no stranger to pivots. His company, Kilter Rewards, is a gamified-engagement app for healthy living and charitable giving. Seth is based in Madison, Wisconsin.Over the course of Kilter Rewards, Seth has changed business models and customer acquisition models through getting angel investors, listening to customers, and listening to advisors. All of this means that he’s shifted his company value proposition, technology, markets, too. So when COVID-19 hit, he took it in stride and turned it into creative opportunity.On the path to product/market fit, it’s important to consider the energy coming from your customers. As I had been following the story of Kilter Rewards through the years, I observed something. There was a tangible trajectory of growing energy from Kilter’s customers, whether that be in press articles, tags or mentions that I had seen on LinkedIn, or customer testimonials. What I’m driving at is that when you pair the right business model with the right problem set, there is a kinetic energy that comes from that “lock.” That typically is felt in positive energy from customers. Paying attention to such energy is an indication that we are on the right path to product/market fit. Seth can be reached here.
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