Monthly Archives: November 2020

11.29.2020

Featured Founder: Chad Sandstedt of TagniFi

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Chad Sandstedt, CEO of TagniFi, which is a modern financial data platform for finance and investment professionals.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

My background is in private equity and investment banking which is where I identified the need for a better financial data platform that does not cost as much as college tuition. The problem with legacy financial data platforms is that they are very expensive, are prone to data quality issues from manual data entry, and can take considerable time to update when new information is released. We've built TagniFi using modern technology such as tagged financial statements (where our name comes from) to deliver data more efficiently, timely, and with better data quality. We cover every public company with a standardized balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement as well as the footnotes from 10-K and 10-Q filings with the SEC. We see tagged (structured) data as the future so we're building our company around that movement.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

At the end of the day, we're in the time business. If our clients had to go through every 10-K or 10-Q to collect the data they need for their analysis, it would take them hours, days, or even weeks to collect what they need. We have 11 datasets that are all accessible from our website (TagniFi Console), our Excel plugin, or our API which our clients use to access the data they need within seconds. For example, we have valuation clients that use our public company and M&A data to value private companies for their clients. Another example would be our low-latency API feeds to we deliver to hedge funds within minutes of the SEC filing release. Like most founders, my DNA is geared toward building stuff, and we're always building new datasets or features for the TagniFi platform which I really enjoy. It's also exciting for me to see our team members grow in their roles and take on new responsibilities. As founders, we get to pick the people we work with and we've been blessed with some great people that share the mission we have for TagniFi.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

As a bootstrapped company, I've always had a list of 10 things I want to build but we only have the resources to build a few of these a year. That has been a challenge but it is a sacrifice we've made to maintain 100% ownership of the company since we see this as a 20-year opportunity. Maintaining 100% ownership is very important to us and, while raising money is not an easy process itself, I think the sacrifice will be worth it as our growth compounds over that 20- or 30-year period. We've been remote since day 1 which can also be a challenge. Our co-founder and CTO is located in the Portland area so being on opposite sides of the country makes it difficult to brainstorm in front of a whiteboard. Prior to COVID, we made a point to meet up every 6 months and I'm looking forward to getting back into that habit when things return to normal post-COVID.

Where do you see your company headed next?

We're going to keep re-investing our cash flow into growing TagniFi as long as the opportunities are out there to deliver our data to underserved markets. For example, we're about to release a new database of private equity investors which will really level the playing field in the lower middle-market for M&A advisors and smaller private equity firms. We've been building this database for over a year so it's a big investment for us but one where we see a lot of upside. We've been focused on the US market since we started the company, primarily because our technology utilizes tagged financial statements which have been available since 2009 in the US but other countries have lagged in requiring this tagging. Starting next year, Europe will begin requiring this tagging so we are planning to expand into Europe in 2021.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

I recently read a great book called From Impossible To Inevitable by Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin which really resonated with me on many levels. One of the things they really hammer in with this book is 'Nailing a Niche' which is something that I agree with 100%. I think a lot of founders try to be everything to everyone which is not going to end well 99% of the time. We live in a world of specialization so you really need to strive to be the best in the world at something in order to be successful. That 'something' may be a niche product for left-handed librarians, but at least you will own that market. Once you own that niche you can leverage that into entering other tangential markets that make sense for you. Finally, I believe startups are an endurance sport that usually take 5, 10, or even 20 years to successfully execute so steady progress will get you much further than a quick sprint.

Learn more about TagniFi on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

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11.23.2020

Featured Founder: Clyde Snodgrass of Porchboxx

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Clyde Snodgrass, CEO of Porchboxx, which is a home/office package delivery system that integrates with all major carriers.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

Prior to Porchboxx and really the entire startup game, I was flipping homes. My background was heavy in residential finance, securitization, and mortgage-backed securities and I come from a family of contractors, so it was easy to transition from my previous life in residential finance.

The inspiration for Porchboxx came from a Zoom call I had with a VC during quarantine that, while holding his two-week-old baby, he had some porch pirates walk up to his porch and walk off with his groceries. He was explaining this happened a lot and that his wife would either let their food sit outside for a while (*for virus reasons) or she would bring them inside and hand wash everything.

He goes: "Find a way to fix this problem and we’ll invest." That was May 6th. On May 28th we incorporated and beginning of August we had a fully functioning MVP.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

Porchboxx protects your packages from porch pirates, disinfects your items from any potential infectious threat, keeps your items cool/warm to prevent spoilage, and acts as a security system that will integrate with almost any IoT device.

What gets me amped up is seeing something that was just a figment of the imagination a few months ago, scale to something that could be the gold standard for how people receive and handle their packages. COVID-19 is going to continue to shape the eCommerce landscape, and home delivery is going to continue to be the new "thing" for most Americans. This addresses a lot of the issues that come with that.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

Honestly, we haven’t hit any real heavy roadblocks yet. This isn’t my first product to develop, so I had all the resources necessary at my fingertips which made it easy to get to prototyping. However,  I know we will have some hard bridges to cross when it comes to production and logistics, so come see in six months when we’re live and ask me to answer this question again.

Where do you see your company headed next?

Ideally, we hope to license our IP to an IoT company that sees a fit with our tech in their space. I think the problem(s) we are solving are big enough that someone is going to take notice pretty quickly, realize what our patent covers, and want to capitalize on that.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

Stop comparing yourself to your peers.  Worrying about what someone else is doing, or thinking that because they’re working 18 hours, you should be too is not the way to go through life. What's normal for one person, isn’t normal for another, and you're going to have lulls in your work cycle that can be hard to get through because you see everyone else plugging away. Set realistic goals, focus on them and as long as you’re on schedule, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else is doing.

Learn more about Porchboxx on Twitter.

 

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11.20.2020

Gratitude for Our Community

 

To the Embarc Collective Community –

Normally during this season, I’m eager to reflect on what I’m grateful for most. This year it took me longer to process and unearth my gratitude, but I know what I value the most right now: this community.

This community has banded together through the ups and downs of the year in a way that surpassed all my expectations, with a nimbleness I could have never predicted.

We started in January opening our space, and for the first time, bringing this community of startups together to build, learn and collaborate. It was exciting and new and promising.

And just when we were hitting our stride, the pandemic hit. And even though our physical world got disrupted, we stayed connected. And that’s where I feel proud – this community has stuck together. The Embarc Collective community has grown from 42 startups to 56 startups since the start of the pandemic. Think about that, you likely have not met a large part of these new teams face-to-face yet. And still, you say “absolutely, anything for a fellow member” when I ask if you can help company.

This is why I find my gratitude in this community of nearly 200 individuals. The fact that each individual that is affiliated with Embarc Collective has a community standing beside them ready to say “yes, I’ll help.”

Building a startup is lonely and hard. My sincerest hope is for you to know you have this amazing community of people going through it too and that makes this journey a little less lonely and a little less difficult.

It may be in-person, via Zoom or just a 🙌 on Slack, but I hope you can take a moment to appreciate this community that you’ve helped to build. It’s what I’m most grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving – wishing a safe, happy holiday to you all.
Lakshmi

11.16.2020

The Glaring Gap Summit: Investor Education Day

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Just over a year ago, we received data about the gap that exists nationally between what women startup founders raise on average to grow their companies versus what men raise. Less than 20% of global venture deal volume in 2019 went to startups with at least one woman founder. In terms of total dollars raised, 2019 saw only 13% go to those same companies.

Frustrated with the state of funding for women tech founders and with support from JPMorgan Chase, we began work on the Glaring Gap Report and Summit. The Glaring Gap Report outlines the state of tech entrepreneurship for women in Florida. Some of the startling findings include:

  • Although the # of women-founded startups in Florida that raised early-stage venture funding has increased, they still received just 12% of capital over the past decade
  • In 2018 and 2019, not one individual woman participated in an investment round in Florida
  • Just 8% of Florida-based investment firms have a woman in an investing or leadership role

If the Glaring Gap Report was intended to outline the problem, the Glaring Gap Summit was to create a solution. The Summit is convening 50 Florida-based women across 3 audiences: accredited investors, emerging professionals, and college students seeking venture career paths.

Over the course of 3 sessions, the inaugural Glaring Gap Summit is exposing the participants to the various types of startup investing, a rigorous investing curriculum, real-world application, and the opportunity to build relationships among Florida-based women interested in startup investing.

Session 1 began with a fireside chat between Alexa von Tobel, Founder of LearnVest, which exited to Northwestern Mutual, now venture investor at Inspired Capital, and Julian Guthrie, best-selling author. I met Alexa when she was first building LearnVest and to follow her journey from exit to launching her own fund has been truly inspiring .

Alexa energized the audience because she encouraged the Summit’s participants to be unapologetically ambitious, something we need to continue to remind ourselves to be as women. That message seemed to hit home with each participant, no matter her stage of life. And that ambition comes with a determination and the willingness to treat each day as an opportunity to succeed. Alexa shared her personal mantra to bring this mindset to life: “Get up. Dress up. Show up.”

We then brought in experts to share overviews of different investing approaches: Cheryl Campos of Republic gave an overview on equity crowdfunding (or crowd investing), Samara Hernandez of Chingona Ventures talked more about running a venture capital fund and Angela Lee of Columbia Business School and 37 Angels shared an overview of angel investing.

The remainder of the session was an intensive training on how to evaluate and participate in a startup investment round. Of the investor and startup education events I’ve attended, Angela’s curriculum was the most impressive, digestible and impactful investing education experience I have ever had.

We are excited to put this knowledge into action when the participants of the Glaring Gap Summit observe Tampa Bay Wave’s TechWomen Rising Demo Day on Tuesday, November 17.

If you want to be a part of the change, we invite you to commit to being a part of the solution by signing our Pledge to Eliminate the Glaring Gap. Together, we can make sure that day by day, more women-led startups are being built and invested in.

Some more reflections for the Summit’s participants:

11.09.2020

See you around

When I joined Embarc Collective in August of 2018 (approximately thirty years ago by my count), I was tasked with making sure that we built a data-driven culture of measurement. Since then, we’ve delivered 2061 hours of coaching, held 92 programming sessions, and opened the door to the member space 19,705 times.

But metrics are meaningless without context, and at Embarc Collective that context is the incredible community of talented individuals who work so hard every day to build bold, scalable, thriving companies. It has been incredibly inspiring—so inspiring that I’m inevitably jumping back into working at a startup with my new role at Remote.

I’ll be taking many lessons with me, but chief among them is that the team you build with is the single biggest contributor to your success. My team these past two years has helped me push my boundaries, raise my standards, and execute with excellence. From the all-hands-on-deck effort of launching the space to the day-to-day work of delivering on Embarc Collective’s mission, this team delivers at a world-class level and I’m fortunate to have worked alongside them.

I will always think back fondly on my time at Embarc Collective, and I am truly grateful to all my teammates and EC members that I’ve worked with along the way. But, lest I give this post too much of an air of finality, remember: goodbyes in Tampa Bay are really more of a, “see you around!”

That being said, see you around!

11.09.2020

Featured Founder: Justin Arnold of Blocklight

Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Justin Arnold, CEO of Blocklight, which is a data & analytics platform for e-commerce businesses.

What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?

Before pursuing Blocklight full time, my career had primarily been in the Chicago food industry at a co-packing company. My path began in manufacturing and industrial operations before transitioning to the IT, finance, and strategy side of the business, ultimately arriving in the continuous improvement leadership position. It was here that I learned the foundational components of business and how all of the pieces fit together - from operations management to monthly accounting reconciliations and everything in between.

It was also at this company that I was introduced to the world of startups. After five years with them, I was asked by management if I knew anyone who would be interested in taking the company’s internal quality software to market. I thought, “why not me?”, and after expressing interest in the role I joined three others tasked with bringing the software to market. What. An. Experience. We wound up building the company out of 1871 and I jumped feet first into the technology scene - I mean I couldn’t get enough; seminars, workshops, trainings, networking - I was addicted. Fast forward two years and the software was being used modestly across the midwest. However, the experience as a founder and exposure to the community I received during those 2 years was invaluable.

As I was exploring what to do next, I came in contact with a few owners of e-commerce stores who expressed difficulty running their (fast-growing) shops. Their non-technical nature, budget limitations that kept roles like business development and data analyst unattainable, and time restrictions given their non-work obligations was the catalyst for the creation of Blocklight. We knew that we could bridge the gap when it came to simply having business data and extracting actionable value from it.

What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?

Organizing business data, understanding it, and then taking action based on what you discover is a difficult, time-consuming task for the already overwhelmed e-commerce store owner. Blocklight helps these store owners visualize their entire business in one place. We break down traditionally disparate data silos and help stores organize their sales, marketing, and financial data customized to their business.

I get excited to work with our team and the businesses we serve. Our team’s passion for helping small businesses with the tools we create always helps keep my tank full. I also really get excited when we meet with these businesses - getting them to double down on something we’ve done right or put us on notice about something that’s not providing value gives me a recharged desire to help. Maybe it’s proximity placebo, maybe not, but I always feel the best and most energized when we’re doing tight iterations in short cycle times with our customers.

Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge was a founding team issue/disagreement. I truly can’t stress the importance of making sure you are thorough in vetting and understanding your potential partners. These relationships should be viewed similar to a marriage - you’re going to be together at least to the company’s event horizon and maybe even beyond so due diligence can’t be underestimated.

Radical transparency and resilience are how we overcame it. I’m a firm believer in the entire team having a vested interest in the company’s trajectory and not being in the dark about anything. In my experience, this level of inclusion leads to a very loyal, open, and positive culture. When the team has a voice and is informed, the bond of the team becomes impenetrable and all threats, internal or external, are able to be overcome. The caveat to this is that it can’t be something fake or surface-level - your team knows the good and the bad too.

Where do you see your company headed next?

Our mission is to give businesses self-reliance by way of their own analytics. In the short term, we will continue to enhance our analytics platform to provide more value and tools to drive growth even easier. We’ll also soon be launching in the Shopify App Store. In the mid-long term, we’re going to empower the businesses we work with to solve even more problems that plague the e-commerce industry with their business analytics profiles.

Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.

Be prepared to get creative and uncomfortable, but don’t lose your North Star. Being a startup founder is admittedly one of the most difficult (if not the most difficult) thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I know I’m not alone. You’re never going to be fully prepared for everything you will encounter, it’s impossible; you’re the sales, marketing, product, finance, HR, and customer service department. Be confident in your ability to analyze and creatively solve any problem, listen to those who have experienced the challenges you’re going through, (try to) never burn a bridge, and treat everyone you encounter with the same respect you’d like to receive. Remember, a brand is nothing more than a promise delivered - so always remember your promise and don’t ever let the noise make you forget why you got started in the first place.

Learn more about Blocklight on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

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