When you helped found Rocksauce, what were your biggest concerns and worries?
No matter what you may hear in the media, the biggest concern with any start-up business (this is a soap box I like to be on and as a business owner, I promise you it’s important) is demand. Do people want what you’re selling? For us, it was “will people hire us to design an app for them?” That was our number one priority: how do we find customers? How do we get them in the door? How do we get them to trust us with their projects since making an app can be a costly endeavor?
Trusting in a start-up can be scary for a lot of people…it’s an unproven commodity. Our challenge was to show people that we knew what we were doing. We could take your money and make something great with it, that they could trust us. We did this by being very honest and open. Our goals have always been to make a great product, not to maximize profit. We create a great product, put our name on it, put it out there and prove that we can made wonderful apps. That’s how we grew demand.
That’s the challenge for any start-up in any industry: how do you create demand? With demand, you have to make more product, you have to hire more people, etc.
Was there a point where you suddenly realized that you’re no longer a start-up, but an actual company?
It happens when you look at your projections and realize that you’ve passed certain milestones. It happens when you realize how much money has been brought into your company. It happens when you realize that you have more than ten people on the payroll. There’s no single point where you suddenly realize it, but you start to get an idea once you pass the one year mark.
Technically, a business has to be around for two years before it goes form being a start-up to being a small business. That’s the hardest thing any start-up has to deal with. Until that two year mark, you can’t get a bank loan or assistance from any kind of lending organization. It all has to deal with regulation laws. You need to find private investments or just bootstrap it. When we officially turn two in January, it’ll be official: we’ll be a small business and not a start-up. At the same time, it’s like growing older in real life — you don’t realize you’ve grown older. You always feel the same. We may be an established company, but we still feel like a start-up, much like how I’m 35 and still feel like I’m 21. I may be wiser, but I don’t feel different.
What advice can you offer any start-up as they get rolling?
Don’t waste your money. Don’t spend all of your money on silly things that you don’t need, like really fancy offices in a really fancy building because you think that’s going to help you with clients. Granted, this may be helpful for some companies where that kind of appearance is important, but in the app, tech or design fields? Not necessarily.
For companies like Rocksauce Studios, foot traffic isn’t important. Do your research and find a comfortable building with a reasonable rate that will let you grow and put your money where it can be seen. There’s an adage in the film industry that you should put every dollar on the screen: every dollar spent should be seen by the audience. It’s the exact same thing for a company. Invest in a great team. Don’t treat you and your fellow executives like royalty and underpay your employees. You own the company and that’s enough at the start. Consider it an investment and think of your longterm goals.