Start-up meetings the way they should be

Last night’s ATDC entrepreneur event was perfect. It had beer, pizza, & informal networking. Most importantly though, it had an awesome entrepreneur sharing the truths of his start-up success sans PowerPoint & the podium.

For those who don’t know, every month, ATDC at Georgia Tech (the unquestionably best start-up tech group in Atlanta) holds an evening event where they introduce successful entrepreneurs to the community. In my opinion, this setup was better than many of the structured events out there.

Andy Monin, founder and CEO of Vendormate spoke on starting/building/navigating, & exciting his successful software business. Here are some of the lessons I learned:

  • Interview prospects before you sell. It’s virtually impossible to know exactly who your target will be and precisely what your offering should entail. Until you get out there and start exploring the market’s needs, you’ll never know. Andy mentioned that they must have “interviewed” 100 companies before getting their product up and going. Even then they still had to pivot until they reached their focus point.
  • Relationships get you your initial sales. For Vendormate’s first two deals, Andy jokingly mentioned that his brother basically pulled the buyers arms behind their backs until they gave in and bought the product. It stood as example that when you have a strong, long-lasting friendships you can show them that their order is worth more than what they are risking. They believe in you or else they wouldn’t have hung around for so long. Have your friends buy & try the product and ensure them that if anything goes wrong you’ll make it back to them down the road in spades.
  • Watch out for tax implications. Andy mentioned an issue they occurred which took place upon execution of stock options. I think he was referring to the 83b election which if not filled out, means you get taxed on options at execution date as ordinary income whereas if you do make the election, it is treated as a capital gain. You want capital gains, so make sure you check the right boxes and you’ll be in a better place. I know this is vague (& maybe downright wrong so hopefully somebody will help me fill in the blanks through the comments)

While I took away A LOT of value from Andy, I feel like I could have asked him questions all night. Here are some I would have asked if I had more time:

  • How would you describe the culture at Vendormate? Has it changed over time and what impact do attribute it the businesses success?
  • Describe the sales process. Who sold, how did they sell & what did the best sales performer do differently?
  • Was talent a core competency? How did you hire and fire? Interview best practices & on-boarding suggestions?

As you can see, I really had a great time. Were you there? What do you think of Andy & Vendormate or the format for the event? Thanks for reading and I hope to see you at the next one!

*****  Just added, 8/24

My good fried Jon Birdsong reminded me of a few other key points that Andy brought up in his talk:

  • Try to avoid selling to CTO’s. Andy didn’t want to deal with his customer’s computing environments so all of his offerings are SaaS based. This also leads in to the other point…
  • Get recurring revenue. It helps in so many ways: forecasting, stability, sell-ability, ability to sleep at night :), etc.

This about rounds it out. Hope you enjoyed the recap.

  1. Good
    write-up.  I believe most of the tax implications he was referring to had
    to do with the options, but I’m not sure if any of it had to do with how his
    angels structured the deal (and how long their hold period was).  There’s
    a 50% tax exemption for QSB stock held over 5 years (Section 1202).  Would
    be interesting to find out if this had any effect on his F&F investors.

    1. Thanks for reading & for your feedback Philip. I went here to learn more about qualifying QSB stock: It looks like in some cases the exclusion is 100% but their are restrictions on timeline and you need to be a C-Corp. All this stuff is definitely complicated and further emphasizes the need for a great start-up lawyer’s services. Probably expensive, but worth their weight in gold.

  2. To follow-up on Philip’s comments, the tax related information is more on the 83b elections.  And to Kyle’s comments…yes, a lawyer at this stage when making these “into the future” decisions is well worth the price.  It will hurt…but just do it and find one.  Their advice is priceless.  We work with Trey Wainwright at McKenna Long and give him two thumbs up, he’s been solid and spot on.

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