J. Brian Anderson

technology. venture. learning. together.

- 10 - Why I like @Sproutbox

I spent a Friday two weeks ago with the software venture-accelerator program called RunUp Labs put together by Brad Wisler, Mike Trotzke and Kacey Martin (of Sproutbox) whom I've worked with for a couple of years and it clicked with me.  The reason why I like their software development, mentorship, and entrepreneurial drive is that they help entrepreneurs climb the learning curve fast.  Here's why ...

1. the right focus at the right time.

Common trap, it's easy to see all the work early stage technology companies need to accomplish but it's hard to focus on which opportunities/work you should actually be taking on.  Steve Blank and Eric Reis talk about this all the time, but it's really hard to do, Sproutbox knows how to do it, and they should.  They launch about ~10 - 15 companies a year.  They take big ideas distill them down, wire frame them, and get into the build, launch, learn cycle really fast, 2 - 3 months fast ...  (that's fast).

2. conflict-of-interest free

I won't generically throw outsourced development shops under the bus, because there are quality programs/groups here locally that I like quite a bit.  That said, the downside of outsourcing software development is it can and often does create conflict or misalignment between parties.  If you pay a developer without a equity component or more importantly, REAL risk sharing - they're oriented towards building exactly what you ask for,  what's the problem there you ask?  This product that gets built isn't always timely or the best minimally viable product (MVP).  Meaning, as long as the money is flowing from entrepreneur to developer - bring on the complexity (in the worst cases).  Sproutbox doesn't accept payment by entrepreneurs, they invest their own development resources and usually their own cash.  In other words they're self-moderating on topics like feature creep, entrepreneur alignment and scope.  [Founders should think long and hard about outsourcing development functions in their startups.  There are 49 shades of gray to this but if you don't agree listen to this blog post by Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures - it's a nuanced topic.]  

3. been there, done that

Brad and Mike (with the help of others) have started, built, and exited a platform company.  This isn't their first rodeo and importantly, while they have great expertise, they also have deep contacts in companies in many different industries, meaning if they don't know it, they probably have friends who do.  This is far more important than many realize.

Lastly and importantly, once they start investing in you, they trust you, whether you're a first time entrepreneur or a seasoned business vet - they'll work with you and don't get into the habit of second guessing or bait-and-switch relationship building.  They know that not every idea, startup, or business is going to be successful but they're fantastic partners on the build-launch-learn cycle and you should take a very close look at them if you're looking for someone to help launch your startup whether you're in Indiana, the Midwest, or the Left or Right Coast.

-- Agree or disagree please feel free to post comments, arguments, or general banter at your discretion. Inappropriate or inflammatory statements with be moderated but challenges and disagreements are more than welcome. --

DISCLOSURE: I'm a friend of the Sproutbox team, a mentor in the Sproutbox/RunUp Labs program and an investor in Cause.it.

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