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Building a Successful Startup – Tips from the CEO of Formstack.com

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Building a Successful Startup – Tips from the CEO of Formstack.com


This post is part three of a three post series.

In last week’s post, Chris Byers, CEO of Formstack LLC, gave us a few tips on what it looks like to build a successful start-up. This week, he will continue his discussion in Part Two by adding a few more encouraging pieces of advice on building business success.

4. Build Momentum.

We commonly tend to think that the day we release our software or service, the biggest part of the work is done.  It’s not.  My approach is to hink of life and business as a marathon rather than a sprint.  While I have only run a half-marathon to date, my preparation takes place over the course of months and my distance slowly increases over that course of time.  Even then, improving my half-marathon time over previous records takes years of consistently deciding to get out and run, committing to tweaking my running strategies and the resulting run-time.  In the same way, you too need to build your startup over a number of weeks and months with small victories each week rather than hunting the big wins once a quarter.  This will allow you to build momentum in your product as well as excitement about the days ahead.
5. Keep Expenses Low.

I tend to be very debt averse, though there used to be a day when I wasn’t.  In my first startup, we started heavy with five staff members that needed to get paid each month.  In addition, we got this idea that having awesome marketing and logos were going to make us successful.  While the logos were pretty, that commitment cost us a great deal financially in the short-term.  Also, we thought that nice offices were a key to running our software business.  Three years of personal guarantees were wrong for our business and wrong for my personal finances.  And finally, I fell for the “lease a car to save taxes” trap and committed myself to $20K of a brand new car.  In the end, all of these debts and costs were a great detriment to our ability to make wise decisions for our company.  The good news was that if we had been successful, we might have blown the money anyway. This told me I needed a few lessons in stewardship before my next startup.

I hope these tips were helpful for those of you thinking about starting up your own company. There are always going to be lessons you have to learn along the way, but it’s always good to take as much advice as possible. Good luck in your venture.

If you have any questions or comments for Chris, contact him at Chris.Byers@formstack.com.

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Formstack LLC., is an Indianapolis, Indiana located company with a mission to give businesses and organizations of all caliber a solution to their online needs. Formstack provides a way for companies to develop, design, create, and manage online forms with little to no knowledge of HTML coding or programming. Users can create any type of form desired including surveys, contact forms, event registrations, and more. These forms are used by companies with a desire to collect data in a smarter, more convenient and stress-free way. Formstack’s online forms can also be integrated with multiple third-party applications. Check out Formstack athttp://www.formstack.com.

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Building a Successful Startup – Tips from the CEO of Formstack.com

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Building a Successful Startup – Tips from the CEO of Formstack.com


This post is part two of a three post series.

1. Manage Your Own Expectations.

If you are just getting started with your new awesome idea, the tendency is to think that you will launch the product on day one, have enough users to pay the bills on day 30, hire a team within 90 days and sell the company for $23MM on a 5X revenue multiple by year-end.  It isn’t going to happen.  Within our company, which has passed the startup stage, we had very consistent and positive growth from day one…but it still took more than 18 months to sustain even one employee.  That said, I wouldn’t discourage the attitude in place that keeps you thinking you could be Indy’s next Exact Target.

2. Embrace Change.

If you look back and remember your past, the way you have previously thought about things, or even the decisions you made last month- they were all based on factors very different from where you are today.  When you make decisions, remember that everything is up for change. Sometimes, you need to create change just so you remember why you liked things the way they were.  By small example, Formstack attempted to gain more collaboration by placing a few people in an office together rather than our ‘one person to an individual office’ past.  After a few weeks, I was extremely frustrated and returned things to normal because the specific concept didn’t work. A few weeks later, we tried the same concept, but grouped cohorts together based on their individual departments. The experiment is receiving better results, and office morale has increased exponentially.

3. Your First Idea is WRONG.

Let’s say you’ve started your company, released your software, and have begun to market your first idea. That idea you had is why you have a start-up in the first place. The problem with that idea is that it is all wrong.  Maybe the market is wrong, maybe the timing is wrong or maybe the product itself is all wrong.  If you look at our history here at Formstack, we started as a custom software development shop.  From there we actually launched a number of products.   Of those, we killed a few and kept two alive.  One of them is our form-builder which took some time to see its value, and the other is no longer marketed and is only serving the few customers that remain. That said, from a custom development shop to the incorporation of Formstack was a good 4-year process.

We hope Byers’ advice was enough to make you re-think your strategy as well as encourage you to continue on the journey to developing your start-up. Stick around next week for Part Three as Byers continues dishing out his top five tips on starting a successful start-up.

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Formstack LLC., is an Indianapolis, Indiana located company with a mission to give businesses and organizations of all caliber a solution to their online needs. Formstack provides a way for companies to develop, design, create, and manage online forms with little to no knowledge of HTML coding or programming. Users can create any type of form desired including surveys, contact forms, event registrations, and more. These forms are used by companies with a desire to collect data in a smarter, more convenient and stress-free way. Formstack’s online forms can also be integrated with multiple third-party applications. Check out Formstack athttp://www.formstack.com.

Posted in Featured Founders and CEOs, Running a Business, Starting a BusinessComments Off on Building a Successful Startup – Tips from the CEO of Formstack.com

Building a Successful Startup – Tips from the CEO of Formstack.com

Tags: , ,

Building a Successful Startup – Tips from the CEO of Formstack.com


This post is part one of a three post series.

Chris Byers is the CEO of Formstack and runs the day to day operations of the company. He has been a fan and avid user of Formstack for many years but has only recently joined the team in March 2010. Byers understands the hardships that come along with starting a company and surviving the up’s and downs of the it’s life. As CEO, Indianastartup.com asked Byers for a few local tips.

Over the years, Byers has been the founder of a number of businesses in many different capacities.

Byers understands that the ability to say that you want to be a part of a startup or the owner of a business is the easy part. The work of actually being in that role is very different. In the end, a great full-time job can be more rewarding than owning or running a company that doesn’t match your personality. “In past businesses, I thought I knew what I wanted but each experience has simply been a journey and an education for today,” said Byers.

Business Model/Concept

As someone who came on the scene a bit later in the company’s existence, Byers only knew what he had experienced from the outside.  Formstack started in March of 2006 as a solution to its founder’s (Ade Olonoh) frustration with the tedious work of creating forms for his clients.  Olonoh developed an idea that would make the process simpler and along the way, created a tool available to everyone.  From day one, the form builder gained some traction and had signups for the product.  It took about 18 months to realize that it had the legs to decide that he could base a company around the product.  At that point it became time to look for some funding to assist in growth and find the right team to begin marketing Formstack.

In the Part Two of his post, he will share some helpful advice on what it looks like to be successful in a start-up venture.  Check back in a few days.

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Formstack LLC., is an Indianapolis, Indiana located company with a mission to give businesses and organizations of all caliber a solution to their online needs. Formstack provides a way for companies to develop, design, create, and manage online forms with little to no knowledge of HTML coding or programming. Users can create any type of form desired including surveys, contact forms, event registrations, and more. These forms are used by companies with a desire to collect data in a smarter, more convenient and stress-free way. Formstack’s online forms can also be integrated with multiple third-party applications. Check out Formstack at http://www.formstack.com.

Posted in Featured Founders and CEOs, Running a Business, Starting a BusinessComments Off on Building a Successful Startup – Tips from the CEO of Formstack.com


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