Editor’s note: Prior to founding PrepChamps, Dean Bundschu was a co-founder of a North Carolina based company providing foreclosure data to the real estate market. He also worked for Orion International, a recruiting and consulting firm, where he was consistently a top performer, responsible for Fortune 1000 Companies. Prior to venturing into the business world, Dean served for six years as an officer in the United States Army. This service included a combat tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he commanded a headquarters company. This article is the latest in the Entrepreneurial Spirit series produced in cooperation between the Council for Entrepreneurial Development and WRAL Local Tech Wire.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – What does it take to succeed as an entrepreneur? That is the questions that many in the Triangle would like to know the answer to.
Regardless of what the secret recipe for entrepreneurial success really is, entrepreneurs in this area can gain a lot of invaluable advice from other entrepreneurs by asking each other similar questions. We sat down with Dean Bundschu, CEO of Apex-based PrepChamps, to hear his thoughts on growing a company in the Triangle.
What are some of the most important factors to consider when starting a company?
There are so many different factors that you will need to take into consideration before you start a company. These are the five that our team at PrepChamps deemed most critical:
1. Clear Vision. Make sure that your product or service solves a problem, can scale quickly, addresses a big market and can grow profitably. If you think that you have a great idea, you need to research your market and determine the true potential for your idea. It may be nice to think that you are the next MySpace or YouTube; but what you really need to do is ask yourself how large your market base really is. You will need to lose your emotion and review worst-case scenarios in your business plan. This will help you figure out what is the best approach to take when defining your vision.
2. Define Success. PrepChamps goal is to be the nation’s top website for high school sports videos. We aim to become the most heavily trafficked sports video service with more uploaded recruiting videos and a broader selection of content than any other hosted sports video service. In order to determine what success looks like, you need to set milestones and you need to define your exit strategy. Once you define these metrics, you need to leverage the power of technology. This will help you find ways to scale the business quickly.
3. Market Like #1. Size really does not matter. Understand that customers do not care how large you are in a physical sense. You company will be judged based upon how well you present your product. Focus on what makes you number one when compared to direct and indirect competitors. Then focus on the benefits versus other possible solutions.
4. Get Resourceful. Find creative ways to overcome lack of initial capital. In order to do this, you need to maximize any revenue or initial cash that you might have. For example: utilize word-of-mouth/viral marketing strategies. Once you do find capital or start to generate revenue, make sure you stay disciplined. Always focus on being frugal and stretching out your dollars.
5. Stay Small. In other words it’s all about speed versus size. Do not focus on growing the physical size of the company, instead, focus on leveraging the smallness of the company to run circles around larger and slower competitors.
What has made the Triangle the right place for you to start and grow PrepChamps? What resources does the Triangle offer that have been particularly helpful to PrepChamps?
The Triangle is truly an amazing entrepreneurial community. There are so many unique resources available for aspiring entrepreneurs. The best place to start is the CED. If you are thinking about starting a business, you should enroll in the CED FastTrac program. This program helped us to network into every aspect of this tight nit community. Because of the CED, we were able to connect with business partners like Paladin and Associates, Preation, iContact, Hutchinson Law Group, Hosted Solutions and the entire investment community. Once you get your foot in the door, you will find out that almost everyone you talk to is willing to help you if you just ask.
What have been some of your greatest challenges in starting PrepChamps? How have you overcome them?
The single greatest challenge that we have faced to date has been raising capital. Before you get started, you need to be prepared to go it alone if need be. Do not rely on investors to get your company off the ground. Every member of our team has made tremendous sacrifices to help get PrepChamps going. You need to be mentally prepared for the challenges that you are sure to face, this usually means that you will have to ‘bootstrap’ the company for a while and that means that you will have to be ready to “work for free” for at least a year.
What can regional planners and entrepreneurial support organizations improve upon to make the Triangle more entrepreneur friendly?
Organizations like the CED and YEO provide a lot of resources for aspiring entrepreneurs. There are also a lot of organizations and individuals that will go out of their way to lend a hand and provide support. The one thing that seems to be lacking is any type of formal support group for seed stage or early stage companies. We would like to see some type of formal CEO peer-group created for companies like ours. It would be nice to see an organization sponsor a confidential forum where new companies can get together and discuss the everyday challenges that you face when trying to get a new company off the ground.
If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs in the Triangle, what would that be?
Do not be afraid to fail. You need to realize that you are going to make a ton of mistakes. The key is to learn from your mistakes quickly and never make the same mistake twice. The truth is that you have a limited amount of time to get it right. Focus on your value proposition; you need to make sure that you can get people’s attention right away!