Investors Like to Ask About a Startup’s Unfair Advantage. Have We Found One Here in the Midwest? or Is It Still in the Works?
Every entrepreneurial hub has it’s advantages and disadvantages, so I wouldn’t say that we have an unfair leg up. What I do love about this community is that everyday feels like you are on the ground floor of something pretty amazing. We’re not content. You have individuals and organizations out there pushing our limits. Making us think differently about how we are building.
On an individual/founder level, we are lucky to be surrounded by other founders and teams that are accessible and supportive. Startups are anything but glamorous. Having a strong peer network is incredibly impactful for me.
Also, because KC is focused on growing the pipeline and density of companies, there is incredible opportunity to find support and resources for whatever stage your company is.
So no, I don’t think we have an unfair advantage, but I do think the narrative around our strengths is pretty strong and I know my co-founders and I could never have started our company anywhere other than Kansas City.
Similar to That, Do You Think We’re Fully Comfortable With Who We Are Regionally? the Temptation to Imitate Is Hard to Shake.
I can’t speak to that question as an authority, but my gut tells me that if we were comfortable, you wouldn’t hear the dialogue or see the activity that is happening around us, which I think is healthy.
Austin, SF, Boston–they provide us a framework for how their ecosystems were built. We should absolutely be building relationships with them and use their examples as inputs into our own thinking. My only, but significant, caution is that we can’t let those examples place artificial limits on what and who we want to be.
It’s a fine line to walk, but we have to be thoughtful and not just assume that if X and Y worked in Austin, that it’s going to work here. Or if A and B happened in SF, than we have to replicate it here.
A friend shared with me the concept of exponential thinking–envisioning the world in 5 years and building off that reality. I believe that it is the only path forward and will be a game changer for KC. How does tech and industry impact our world, impact KC and what does that look like in 5, 10 years? It’s a disciplined way of thinking and if we refuse to engage in that type of thoughtfulness, we will keep on a path of incrementalism and be a proportionate development stage behind.
Speaking of Being Yourself, Will You Share the Idea Behind Collective?
The most impactful piece of advice I ever received was to just be myself. It was so simple, and yet, it made me think about why we fail to be our own most ardent supporters. Why the voice in our head is more likely to say, “You can’t hack it,” versus, “You own this.”
Collective became a movement to support originality and activism for each of us and our activity trackers. Founded because we each need more voices to freakishly celebrate us, my co-founders and I started with the deep belief that we are best when we are being ourselves. We’re doing that by first prototyping accessories for the Fitbit that allow our customers to maintain their own sense of style.
How Has Your Local Network Helped You Get Started With Design and Production so Far?
I look back at the last 3 months and continue to be grateful for the accessibility of our Kansas City network and the mentorship that we’ve received. For the record, I have never designed, prototyped or produced accessories. Ever! So the first thing we did was sought the advice of those who have and it has gotten us to today with prototypes sitting on my kitchen table.
We are working with designers as far away as Portugal and New York. We are sourcing materials from across the country. We are learning what it means to build on someone’s ecosystem. Fitbit’s initially. It’s an eye opening experience and without mentorship and accessibility of the Kansas City community, we would still be drawing with colored pencils.
What Is Your Latest Epiphany?
I recently introduced a puppy into my life, which takes lots of patience and puppy treats. First was potty training and then basic commands. Now we’re learning to walk off the leash, etc. You pretty much can find me with puppy treats in my pockets at all times.
This has really made me think about humans and the psychology behind our relationships. Our actions impact others and are reinforced with either positive or negative behavior. It’s understanding we teach people how to treat us. That’s powerful to recognize. You have to learn when to stick up for yourself, and when to be gracious with gratitude.
We’re all just puppies in training.