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Altitude Digital Founder spent his last $500 to start the company

Jeremy-Ostermiller-Altitude-Digital-uses-last-$500

There is no secret formula to starting a company that guarantees success; founders take many different paths to to achieve their goals. We recently caught up with Jeremy Ostermiller, the founder of Altitude Digital, an advertising technology company founded with just $500 during an economic downturn. That was the balance of Jeremy’s savings account at the time. The choices, as he saw it, were start a company or move back home with his parents. Jeremy leveraged what he had learned from his previous work experience and applied it to a building his business.

Most of time you hear about entrepreneurs following a process: research the market, create a business plan, obtain financing, etc. Jeremy, on the other hand, started Altitude Digital the best he knew how; he did not create a business plan, get advice from a mentor, etc. He knew advertising and saw the value in the future of online advertising. Jeremy knew the market problem and built a product to combat industry challenges.

Although Jeremy didn’t follow the typical path, he says if he were to do it again he would:

  • Create a clear business plan from the beginning
  • Network and have strong business mentors for guidance
  • Get legal counsel from day one
  • Create a clean and powerful website and web presence

Although it would have been easier for Jeremy if he had followed the above steps, there is more than one way to start a business. What steps have you followed to start a business?

3 startup tips from serial entrepreneur Henrik Zillmer

HenrikZillmer-on-startups
Henrik Zillmer is an experienced entrepreneur who has started 10+ e-commerce startups in Europe and Asia, including Zalora.com (€1 billion valuation) and Lazada.com. Henrik is also an alumni of the biggest and most successful incubators: Rocket Internet in Europe and Y Combinator in the US. He is currently the CEO & Founder of AirHelp, a startup that helps flyers claim compensation for delayed, canceled or overbooked flights. We recently caught up with Henrik to get his advice on startups and entrepreneurship. He tells us:

  1. Get customer validation:  “Launch as fast as possible to get customer validation. If you’re not embarrassed of the quality of your product when you launch, you’ve launched too late. So get customer validation first.”
  2. Don’t reinvent the wheel: “Some startups consist of components of already successful companies. If, for example, you want to start a webshop, then you don’t need to validate the idea, because it’s already proven successful elsewhere. Then you need to analyze the market and execute the hell out of it.”
  3. Henrik also adds that motivation is in the “DNA of an entrepreneur…Successful entrepreneurs thrive on the ups and downs (challenges) and could never settle for a corporate job. If the motivation disappears, it could be a sign that startup life might not be for you. You choose not to die.”

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?

From startup to acquisition: Matt Burton explains his experiences

From_Startup_to_Acquisition_Matt-BurtonVenture Capital backed startups are a special breed. VCs invest in portfolio companies and expect a return in the form of capital gains. These returns often come in the form of an exit via acquisition. VC backed startups know this from the beginning and work towards returning their investors’ money.

What is the whole experience like from building a company to acquisition on the employee and founder side? We caught up with Matt Burton, currently the CEO of Orchard, who has been a part of two VC backed start-ups that were acquired: AdMeld by Google and ­­LiveRail by Facebook.

Matt explains his experience building a startup as an exciting and challenging process: “You’re focused on building a product and going to market, which gives you constant insight into what’s happening on the front lines. You see the needle move (or not) and adjust strategy accordingly.” Many tech startups leverage this type of development and use market feedback to make adjustments.

Everything changes when the company is in acquisition mode explains Matt, “Product integration becomes the focus. Figuring out how to combine two separate company cultures is an essential part of the success of the two companies coming together. This isn’t always easy to figure out.” Disparate company cultures has been sited as one of the main reasons that the AOL – Time Warner merger did not work.

Although the acquisition process itself doesn’t vary significantly, each experience is unique. “Both Admeld and LiveRail had very strong company cultures that empowered employees and created comfortable work environments,” according to Matt. “Admeld was my first acquisition and I learned a lot about the process. When I joined LiveRail, I knew what to look for and what questions to ask. You get smarter with every acquisition.”

Matt Burton is currently the CEO of Orchard, an investment and analytics platform where institutional investors and loan originators connect and transact.

SocialRank Co-Founder on building the core offering

Diversification.AlexTaub.SocialRankIn the early stages of a company entrepreneurs focus a significant amount of time on the day-to-day tactical level. Each small milestone builds the business: build the MVP, get beta customers, get a paying customer, etc. They take the simplest path to achieve achieve their goals. It is, however, important to keep the big picture in mind. What kind of company do you want to build and how do you minimize risks?

We recently caught up Alex Taub, Co-founder of SocialRank, a technology company that provides top 10 lists for three types of followers on Twitter. Alex tells us that dependency is a tricky situation. “For us, we started with Twitter because we like the team, network and had familiarity with the API. We will add more networks soon but you have to start somewhere.” SocialRank started where they they felt made the most sense.

Alex’s advice to other technology companies who’s offering is integral with technology partners is: “Try your hardest to stay in a good box with any API you use, as the terms may change.”  Focus on the company’s core product and push along development when necessary, Alex says, “You should never build something that you know the company with the API will build themselves. It is okay to build pieces of what they will build if they haven’t built it yet, but only if it is not core to your offering.”

How do you keep focus on the core offering?