The entrepreneurial journey continues…
If you’re a regular reader of “Small Talk”, you know we’ve been tracking Brian Clark, a 25-year old Detroit native, U-M graduate and fledgling entrepreneur.
In 2013, Clark suddenly quit his corporate job, packed up and moved to San Francisco after winning a Hackathon, in Detroit, to focus on developing technology applications with the premise of gathering information quickly, timely and in a relevant manner. Think Google.
And most recently, Clark’s team secured another $50,000 as part of the Salesforce Hackathon by developing an app focused on simplifying Salesforce.com usage for mobile users.
I recently interviewed Clark for an update including his business and financial challenges, evolving strategic approach and his commitment to Detroit–from afar.
Lee: What’s new since the last time we’ve talked?
Clark: A bit of a product pivot, a couple new unique side projects, and some hackathon winnings!
Lee: It’s my understanding your team recently won $50,000 as part of the Hackathon in San Francisco. For those unaware, what is it and how will these resources assist your business?
Clark: We did! It was at the Salesforce Hackathon. They were looking for innovative uses of their platform built as mobile apps. My housemate uses Salesforce everyday for her sales job so we made an app to extremely simplify the process, the judges seem to have liked it a lot! The money is split between a team this time and my portion is going towards growing VUE!
We can always can use more money so we can continue to focus on sustainability and growth.
Lee: The last time we talked, you were in the testing mode for product development. How is it going? Have you rolled it out?
Clark: We launched an initial version two months ago! Due to its proprietary nature, we’re not giving out specific numbers but we’ve been growing about 20% month over month.
Lee: How’s the market acceptance been are are you posting a profit yet?
Clark: The market is a bit competitive so after the initial release of our private beta, we studied the type of analysis mobile application developers ran on our data, how they used competing systems, and learned a ton. With all of that knowledge, we’re relaunching a new version of our platform next week and extremely excited about the growth this will enable. It continues to be customer focused and addresses specific expectations and needs.
Lee: Since you’ve started your entrepreneurial journey out in San Francisco, what have you learned?
Clark: First, always make sure you have enough money in the bank and if you run out of cash, it’s not impossible, but EXTREMELY hard to keep things going.
And secondly, you’re not looking for solutions to bring to market, you’re looking for big problems to be solved.
Lee: Have you further refined your business and marketing strategy? If so, briefly explain how.
Clark: Yes! Being a serial hackathon participant and good at building quick small projects, We took that to our marketing strategy. Instead of going the normal blogging route, we found a small but acute pain point for developers around getting more app downloads. We were able to build a small solution in 3 days and acquire over 100 new potential customers into our sales funnel. And for example, if all of those converted to paying users, I’d be able to hire a full team.
Lee: And what advice would you give to those wanting to take the leap?
Clark: The biggest key is you’re here to solve a problem and find a small monopoly. Where is there a group of people who are not having their problems solved and take over that entire segment of the market with a solution so good that it’s nearly impossible for competitors to get in. Look at Google, they weren’t the first big search engine, but certainly the last by focusing on providing the best search results, not the most time on page to view ads.
Lee: In the nearly two years since you’ve started your business, any regrets?
Clark: None whatsoever! Wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
Lee: And while you’re in San Francisco, you’ve maintained strong business connections to Detroit by mentoring, advising, et al. Why is this important to you?
Clark: I’m a huge proponent of the Detroit tech community and could certainly see myself either starting something there, or at least opening an office for my company one day. I want to see Detroit succeed and do my part to make it happen! But first I need to get my two feet solid on the ground before I start helping everyone else!
The journey continues…