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 Fred Koehler of Ready Chapter 1, a data analytics platform for writers with education, networking, and streamlined IP sales.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
I once heard a friend describe their career in terms of shoe repair – they cobbled together a living as best they could from bits and bobs. That accurately describes my professional life up until now. I’ve worked as a writer, illustrator, creative and communications director, graphic designer, and advertising agency principal. Always balancing the ‘day job’ with the passion projects that make life worth living. Those passion projects have primarily been in the arts, typically working to license my art and stories to publishers who turn them into books. The idea for Ready Chapter 1 came from the 20-plus years I’ve spent navigating the publishing industry.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
Writers, generally speaking, get their souls crushed six times a week and twice on Thursdays. Traditional publishing (IP licensing with advances and royalties) has a 99% rejection rate. To have worked so hard on something so personal and face those odds can feel overwhelming. Our community-driven solution is based on two pillars that seem, at first, almost too simple: Craft and Network. We’re helping writers grow to the top one percent in their writing Craft. Once they’re ready, we’re helping expand their network to meet the industry gatekeepers who are looking to make their next publishing offer. And we’ve got innovative, tech-enabled tools to help.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
Our challenge has been, like most of you, the balance of time and money. We couldn’t commit the time without the money, which wouldn’t come without revenue, which needed a lot more time. In the end, I bet the pool money. My family had saved up $20,000 for a downpayment on a swimming pool. (A luxury, I know, but these Florida summers are hot.) I pulled everyone together and asked if it would be okay to risk our savings on the company instead. Fortunately, my family has a lot of faith and we took the leap without knowing if we’d ever see a single dollar back. Since then, our proof of concept produced nearly the exact amount we spent ($20K), attracting angel investors who have given us a runway. And yes, the pool is still in the plans. 🙂
Where do you see your company headed next?
We’ve got our tech innovation MVP currently in BETA testing. We’ve got a runway. Next up we’ll be developing our go to market strategy and, as a fellow Embarc Collective member put it, hacking our way toward initial growth. Any fellow founders who have advice on this are welcome to bend my ear. I’ll buy the coffee.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you’d share with another founder just starting out.
I’ll make an attempt at being clever and say Craft and Network. The same two pillars on which we’re building our company translate in every industry from investment banking to biomechanics. If you put in the hours to become the top 1 percent of everyone who does what you do AND bust your hump to become known by all the key players, you’ll be the one answering the door when opportunity knocks.
Why Tampa Bay?
I love Tampa! The food. The historic feel. The outdoors. My first memory of Tampa was coming to see the Bucs play in the old creamsicle uniforms. (Grandpa loved them, even when they were terrible.) Central Florida has come so far since then. I’m impressed and encouraged by the work that’s been done to make Tampa and the surrounding areas a place for tech founders to grow and scale. Because of what I’ve experienced in both Tampa and Lakeland, I know my company will find success, supported by an ecosystem of fellow founders all on the same journey. If you’re a driven innovator with a company to grow and that rare combination of drive and passion, you can’t do much better.