How Can I Help You?

Posted by Kate Jurras on Tue, Jun 28, 2011

Guest post by Karl Worth, CEO/Co-Founder of Apptegic. This was first posted here, but we loved it so much we had to share it with you.

Apptegic is a Boston-based company. I was motivated to write this blog post after running into many friends from the Boston Innovation community at the MITX Innovation Awards. I think this post is relevant to any community that is thinking about how to retain and empower its entrepreneurs.

Boston’s Entrepreneur Acquisition Funnel

Boston has always had an excellent acquisition funnel for entrepreneurs. It’s an inbound marketers dream. Year after year, smart, entrepreneurial people are drawn here for their education (and for the one season of good weather).

So there is little concern about Boston’s entrepreneur acquisition, but I have read a lot of articles worrying about entrepreneur retention. Once these entrepreneurs begin bootstrapping their first startup, how good is the region at retaining them and upselling them to build their startup into a business? Does Boston have an entrepreneur churn problem?

Retention and Churn

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about retention, churn, and upsells because they are the focus of my startup, Apptegic. Apptegic helps you to understand and respond to customer engagement with your application and business. You’ve worked hard to get a customer; we help you keep them and provide more value to them.

I realized Thursday night that it is the same with entrepreneurs. A community retains them by understanding them, engaging them, and providing value to them. What might that look like?

It looks like what happened to me. 

Feedback on a good idea

I was drawn to Boston quite a while ago for its schools and, while I am not a recent grad, I am a first-time founder. A year ago, with a pretty good idea for a company, I started engaging with the Boston innovation community. A few months later I quit my job. Why? Because I had met dozens of people who said to me “How can I help you?” and who then did help me. For example:

  • Many past and present founders who each took an hour to answer my questions and encourage me.
  • A startup lawyer who gave me great legal advice off the clock.   
  • VCs and angels who dug into my idea and gave me feedback and introductions even though I was too early for them to fund me.

Help getting customer meetings

My next challenge was to get customers--or at least get into customer conversations to vet my idea. Here, again, I was amazed by the helpfulness of the Boston community.

  •  VP level folks at Boston-area companies took my cold-LinkedIn-mails and gave up some time to listen and give me feedback.
  • New contacts that I had met weeks before opened up their networks and brought me into other companies.
  • Every week there was another meetup, unconference, or networking event, usually organized by volunteers. I’d come away from each of these with five to ten business cards.

Through these means, during the Fall and Winter, I was able to have over one hundred meaningful potential-customer meetings.

From a good idea to a great idea

I don’t think this helpfulness can be attributed to their interest in the solution which we were proposing. The feedback on my initial good idea was just that .... it was a good idea but not good enough to motivate many customers buy.  But these same customers kept talking about an adjacent pain that they were feeling that they needed solved. Based on their feedback, we honed our good idea into a great idea in the late fall.

Prospects and publicity

Now, in our opinion(!), our great idea has become a great solution and potential customers are starting to come to us. And yet again, this spring, the Boston community has impressed me:

  • It is very nice for an executive to talk to a startup and give helpful feedback.  But its a whole next step to work closely with a startup as an early Beta customer.  And yet, a group of Boston area companies did so with us earlier this Spring. Of course, this is because we are solving real pain. But that is not the whole story.  There is a cultural trait at play here in the region:  a willingness to bet on startups and take risks with them. For this, I am grateful.
  • We are now able to take on more customers with a more fully developed solution, so we looking for more public exposure. We have found many opportunities to exhibit, apply for awards, and work with the community to start getting the word out about our solution.   

Thanks, and how can I help you?

Over the past year, I have been helped by several hundred people! I’m engaged with the Boston innovation community and intend to stay so, because it’s been an amazing experience that has been vital to the progress we have made on Apptegic. Thank you! How can I help you?