Image courtesy @peterhershey


MBAs for Small Business

[Editor’s note: As someone who’s worked with small business owners for many years, I’m often surprised by how overlooked the SMB sector can be given its economic and social impact. Good to see stories like Justin’s of investors and founders setting small business firmly in their sights.]

Business Blocks

Business: BusinessBlocks
Mission: To help 1 million small businesses grow faster, make extra money or stay in business by accessing the tools, education and skills they need to survive.
Founder + CEO: Justin Kulla
Founded: October 2015, San Francisco
HQ: San Francisco
Stage: Raised Seed round. Successfully exited.

Why did you found BusinessBlocks? I’ve always been around small businesses and startups. My parents started a business a month before I was born and run it to this day.

Justin Kulla, Founder + Investor

After business school, I became a venture capital investor with Weld North, focused on educational technology.

One day I asked my dad what CRM he used? His response; “What’s a CRM?”

At that point I realized small businesses weren’t as well supported as tech or other startups. That’s when I decided to build a technology business dedicated to serving small business.

Who is your target audience? We serve small businesses, principally with 1–50 employees, in a wide range of industries including bakers, lawyers, doctors, retailers and everything in-between.

Image courtesy @rawpixel

Most of our customers are in the United States though we have significant demand internationally.

How much does it cost to take a course with BusinessBlocks? $500.

That includes a month-long online program, 3 coaching sessions with a small business coach, a welcome/graduation kit and $1,000 of offers/discounts on small business tools.

What makes serving small business good business? It’s a great market:

Beyond that, serving business owners is critically important to their success, their employees and customers too.

Image courtesy @filipsablatura

Why do small business owners have different learning needs? Small business owners often put everything on the line to start a business. If their business fails, they can lose their house, retirement fund etc. Success is really important.

Most small business owners have had a lot of functional training, for example restaurateurs going to culinary school, lawyers going to law school and so forth.

The issue is despite all that, most people have never been trained to run a business; not surprising therefore that we see a 50% failure rate for small businesses in the first 5 years.

Reading a profit & loss statement (P&L), managing marketing — or even people — are core skills required to run a successful business.

Some people learn on the job, but for most, they have questions in one or more important domains. Due to time, money or other constraints getting an MBA can be impractical. Instead, our programs are cost-effective and tailored to the needs of small businesses.

What’s your goal beyond what you do today? Investing and building companies that create economic value because they materially make the world better.

You’ve been an investor for a long time. Why make the shift to full-time founder? Good investors not only provide capital but help their companies grow.

At Weld North, working with my portfolio companies was some of the most rewarding work. At BusinessBlocks, I get to help young companies at scale. Instead of working with dozens of companies, I can help thousands.

What’s been the hardest part of growing your business? Building a business is very hard. I feel fortunate to have had some of the best professional and academic training before starting BusinessBlocks.

However none of those things make the specter of failure, the uncertainty of key decisions, the responsibility for employees, customers and investors and the sheer effort and sacrifice required to grow a business any easier to tackle.

Image courtesy @bluer

What did you do at Google? I managed business development for one former product, Google Checkout, and Analytics.

What does it mean to you to be a Xoogler? One of the key qualities Google seeks in its hires is “Googliness”, which alludes to a combination of passion, drive, and good intention.

That characteristic doesn’t end when a Googler leaves. Xooglers carry that quality forward.

I’ve been humbled by the generosity and inclusiveness afforded to me by other Xooglers and am grateful to be part of the community.

How has the Xoogler community helped you with BusinessBlocks? I pitched at the first Demo Day and got great exposure to leading venture capitalists, met and reconnected with friends who supported me and the business idea even before we had a product.

How can The Xoogler community help you today? I’m actually looking to increase my support for the Xoogler community! BusinessBlocks was bought in March and the Fortune 500 acquirer has asked me to run an early stage fund focused on fintech, small business and AI.

If I can support your startup with advice or potentially capital, let me know.

Thanks Justin!