Startup Reflection: A Year in the Books with Gauge and a Lesson from each Quarter.
Well dang, it’s almost a little overwhelming to even think of how to begin typing this. I don’t blog a lot, but today is special, today is May 11th, 2017, which means exactly 1 year ago, I received a pretty little letter in the mail which marked the incorporation of this idea called ‘Gauge’. I could never have imagined the crazy journey that this company would take me on, but I knew I should take notes so I could one day write about some of the highs and lows of the experience.
The past 12 months have been crazy and exciting, so I wanted to tell my story through a valuable lesson I learned each quarter. Here we go!
Q2 2016 — You’re Never too Small:
Gauge is a bootstrapped company. For my friends who don’t live in the world of tech, that means we used customer contracts and personal funds to finance the company through the first release of our product. (Which launched last week, wooh!). I say you’re never too small because many founders believe that being the ‘little guy’ is a disadvantage. I’d argue the opposite, being small lets you see the world in ways that the big guys don’t and most importantly give you the flexibility to quickly adapt to what others need. In our case, we had a great idea and an InVision mockup but needed some initial funding and partnership to guide us to an MVP to prove our thesis. In this case, we approached one of the most reputable and largest research firms in the US, Focus Pointe Global. With a few emails, I got the opportunity to meet with FPG’s amazing CEO and now mentor of mine, Laura Livers. When we met, we both approached the conversation as ‘how can we make this idea work’, not worrying with with the details until we had a plan. Fast forward 12 months, Focus Pointe Global is our most strategic partner and has helped finance and connect us with organizations we never thought we could work with — we wouldn’t be where we are now without their amazing support.
Lesson: You’re never too small to approach a big company, in our case they became our best friends and developed into an incredible partnership. Ask for what you want, the worst that you’ll get is a ‘no’.
Q3 2016 — Partner with the Best:
Now that we were incorporated and had kicked off development on our product with our first client and strategic partner, it was time to find what every successful company needs to survive: An Attorney and Bank. Rather than finding friends or freelancers to do this, we approached who we thought would be the most strategic players in each space. This included my now friends Shane Ballew from SVB, who literally began to offer help to us with introductions and financial guidance before we were even incorporated and Chris Maxwell from MMM who has arguably made every one of my trips out of the state meaningful by helping with strategic intros and legal counsel that was both affordable and flexible to our needs. These are just two of the examples of the incredible strategic players that were exceptionally helpful to us as we were just getting acquainted in the tech ecosystem.
Lesson: When budgets are tight and you are small, it might look intimidating to partner with the big guys, but being able to convey a vision in the early days will result with the best of the best wanting to work with you too; thus being flexible and so strategic along the way.
Q4 2016 — Leaps of Faith are Scary but Required:
Quarter four was one of the most exciting and rewarding times of both my life and the life of my company. It wasn’t because we had everything figured out or because we had an awesome product (trust me, we had just launched our MVP). It was the best quarter because of the fact that October 1st was the first day in which I became Gauge’s first full-time employee by leaving my job with SalesLoft. This was huge for me (and quite scary) as I’d be leaving my comfortable job for a new salary, that at the time was a hefty $500 / month. (thank the lord for credit cards). The crazy thing about this is that although my salary went down and ramen noodles became my nightly dinner, my happiness and excitement to achieve more for Gauge were exponential and I had never been so excited to come to work.
On a side note, I feel it’s necessary to give a huge shoutout to my now friends and previous managers Rob Forman, Kyle Porter, Tami McQueen, and all of the amazing employees at SalesLoft for all the help and support they gave me on my journey. They’re building an amazing company and helped me to understand the importance of leading a company with core values.
Lesson: Bet on yourself and you will always succeed. Leaving your job to work on a startup with no profit may seem scary, but the awesome thing about being a founder is that even when you are against all odds, you can always bet on yourself and the vision of your company and can pull yourself out of pretty much anything.
Q1 2017 — Mentors and Advisors are Important:
January and February were the hardest months of my life. The hype founding a company had become more realistic and the pressures of delivering to my clients and stakeholders became even truer. (Remember that bootstrapped thing we talked about earlier? Yeah, that means money was still tighter than ever). In my hardest times, I had one competitive advantage that kept me going… Mentors and Advisors who not only believed in my company but me. Most importantly, they had been through this themselves and were more than willing to take my calls and help me out.
To the guys who choose their advisors and mentors solely off of their industry/track record, make sure to find people who believe in you, because in the hardest times that’s all that will matter.
Again, a huge shoutout is necessary to the folks who have been just a phone call away to help and hear me out along this journey: Rob Forman, Laura Livers, Chris Merkle, Tara Ansley, Eric Spett, and Michael Cohn. You guys are the best!
Lesson: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as a founder I felt like I should always have the answers. Your mentors and advisors are great because you can be honest with them, take advantage of that and don’t forget to see how you can help them!
Q2 2017 and Beyond:
The startup world has been a rollercoaster for me. Looking back at it, I must say it’s been the most exciting thing I’ve ever done and I can humbly say I’ve learned more in 12 months than I could ever put into a blog post.
Fast forward to today — Gauge has secured contracts with incredible partners, is in the process of raising a pre-seed round with strategic investors, and is continuing to revolutionize the way companies get feedback from customers. Those successes came with lot’s of long days and stressful evenings. I know that the next year will be even more exciting and challenging, but I have a firm believe that as we continue to put our vision and values at the forefront of everything we do, that we will continue to break the noise and change the way the world looks at our industry.
We’re excited to continue to partner with the best and to create research solutions that help companies make better decisions.
Here’s to one year down and many more to come!
— Jonathan Allen, Founder of Gauge Insights