Partnersavidlogo

These are my fantastic partners and their amazing customer-funded, built-for-life companies. I love them for how much heart and soul they put into their companies. How they take care of their co-workers. How they love their customers. And how they continually architect even better structures for these amazing growing communities we call businesses. I feel very fortunate to play a small part in their growth and their companies’ growth.

On average, I spend a couple hours each week helping each company. Sometimes that means listening and empathizing with what they are going through (and sharing my own awkward path through similar situations). Sometimes that means shining some light in new areas they didn’t know existed. A lot of times it means we put our heads together to figure out the next best steps. When appropriate, I also enjoy rolling up my sleeves to help get things done. My partners also benefit from each other. We get inspired by each other.

Christian @ SurveyGizmo

Christian Vanek is a phenomenon. In fact, I think of him as John Travolta in the movie Phenomenon. He is the fastest learner-into-action person I have ever met.  Many times, before words have the time to dry as they are leaving my mouth, he is already implementing. Christian has no fear of change and loves learning and trying new things.

Christian started SurveyGizmo when he was subcontracting for a company called MarketingSherpa. They wanted a better way to research and survey marketers. He built it in exchange for being able to offer it up to the millions of marketers on their email list. And it worked. And grew. And grew. And grew.

I like to say SurveyGizmo is SurveyMonkey on steroids. We provide an incredible amount of capabilities that our customers love being able to grow into. We also provide enterprise-level capabilities at one-tenth the cost that Fortune 500 companies are used to paying for. Our team of about 70 co-workers love being heroes to our customers. In fact, many of them actually wear capes around the office. Many of my former co-workers from RegOnline work here now and it feels like home.

John @ StickerGiant

John Fischer is an amazing force of nature. He loves people. He uses his incredible energy to inspire his company, his customers, and his community. He has incredible instincts that are usually right. In combining that with his drive, he’s unstoppable.

John started StickerGiant off of a successful side business that made “He’s Not My President” bumper stickers.  He then had a vision to become the largest online sticker store in the World and began stocking ten’s of thousands of stickers sourced from distributors. But his customers started asking on a daily basis whether he could print stickers for them. After saying no long enough he decided to start outsourcing sticker printing as well. As that grew into a multi-million dollar business, John had the right instinct to close the sticker retail business and bring the sticker printing in-house by investing in a million dollar press room with state-of-the-art digital printing and laser cutting.

StickerGiant is now one of the fastest and best sticker and label printers in the country. With a stellar team that can turn jobs around in 24 hours, free art services and custom cuts, and provide the best customer support/love in the industry, the company is attracting new business customers at stellar rate.

Jerome(s) @ SnapEngage

“The Jeromes” are my partners, Jerome Breche and Jerome Mouton. Yes, both born in France. And two of my all-time favorite French entrepreneurs. Super hard-working, frugal, and super nice guys. If I had known France produced such special people and entrepreneurs, I might have preferred to have been born there. Lucky for me, they came to me/Boulder for TechStars and we met when I spoke about customer-funded startups.

The Jeromes truly stumbled their way into business. Their first couple product ideas (TimZon & Snap-a-Bug) didn’t attract investors or very many paying customers. But then they really started listening to what people wanted. It turns out they wanted live chat for their websites that integrated with Skype & Google Talk. They built it, and customers started paying for it. And as more and more customers showed up, they built out capabilities that others didn’t have. Making chat more personable (a lot of people still suspect chat is done by robots).

SnapEngage has built an incredibly robust set of live chat capabilities that help customer service and sales teams be more responsive and more human to their customers.  We also provide enterprise-level capabilities to Fortune 500 websites at 1/10th the cost. Half the company is based in Boulder and half in Berlin. They have the most culturally diverse, connected, and incredible team of 17 people I’ve ever worked with… speaking seven different languages fluently, sometimes at the same time to different customers.

Eric @ PosterBrain

Eric James – A self-taught magician, programmer, entrepreneur, pilot, pro photographer, hedge-fund manager…. insert just about any profession or hobby and Eric can become expert at it within 90 days. I like to call him a mad scientist magician. He can make anything appear in a magical way. As an avid photographer, Eric was an early experimenter with large-format digital printers.

He decided one day to try an experiment with putting up a simple website where folks could upload photos and have them converted into posters. After turning on Adwords and offering a hard-to-refuse price of $9.99 for first time customers, the business took off. First in his basement, with help from his roommates, and with an emphasis on consumer customers.

Now, focused more on commercial customers,  in a larger commercial facility with a dozen large format printers printing away at all hours of the day and night. PosterBrain is unique in it’s same-day poster printing that’s magically fast, easy, and fun. The fun part is also sprinkled with lots of love and care. Customers are shocked and inspired by how much we care about them and getting their orders right. Web-to-print poster printing seems to be a dime-a-dozen. But only PosterBrain can rub two dimes together and get a dollar. It’s magic for a reason… my partner, Eric James.

Dave @ Avid4 Adventure

As President of the Outdoor Industry Association, Dave Secunda felt outdoor education for kids was missing from our elementary school curriculum. So he decided to do something about it by starting what is now Avid4 Adventure. He started by bringing portable outdoor climbing walls and kayak tanks to schools, layered with a well-rounded curriculum that enabled the schools to pay for it. As that program grew, more and more kids and parents started asking for a summer camp option. Now with 8 camps betweens Colorado & California, Avid4 has grown to inspire more than 8,000 kids per season with incredible outdoor education and activities.

What I love about Dave and what his incredible team has done with Avid is how they have thought of every detail that makes kids and parents shout from rooftops about their camps. My own 5 year-old daughter, now in her second season of Avid camps, says “Daddy, I love Avid. When do I get to go back again?”  

 

mainNavLogo

Attila @ RegOnline

While we no longer own RegOnline, I want to give a nod to my hero, former business partner, and founder of RegOnline, Attila Safari. He gave me my first real taste of what working with an amazing partner feels like. Attila has an amazing way of being direct, seeing the simplest answers in a muddle of options, and being willing to hear, accept, and give the truth.

Attila was head of IT building an in-house registration system for a local seminar company called CareerTrack. When he left the company the internet was starting to bubble up. He had an inkling to create online registration software for conferences, seminars, and events. So at night he’d write the code while doing contract work during the day. His first customer was Arthur Anderson Consulting. They asked if it could do something, he’d say yes, and then go home at night to add the functionality. What was unique at the time was he made the software self-service so his customers could make changes to their preferences themselves.

RegOnline took off and grew to be an industry leader in the space. The best price for the incredibly robust functionality. New customers were used to spending 2-10 times more than what we were charging. We sold the company in 2007 to Active Networks (a VC roll-up to go public play). Something we both regret given how great of a team we had, how much our customers loved us, and how much growth we still had ahead.