Entrepreneur Profile: Nick Jaensch, Shizzlr
Independent Software’s Entrepreneur Profiles celebrate people out there changing the world every day through their ventures. We ask each entrepreneur a few questions to give us a little insight into their vision of the future and their take on building a company.
This month we feature Nick Jaensch. His venture, Shizzlr, makes GROUPcentric, the first Sharing 2.0 mechanism, a new layer in the app stack that allows users to privately share content with groups of their friends that can be accessed on any app.
Nick is looking for developers to try out, work with, and include their Android or iPhone Groupcentric SDK in their applications. The goal is to increase user retention in any app utilizing the private sharing platform, while growing the sharing network for users.
If this sounds like you, or someone you know, reach out to Nick at Nick @ shizzlr.com. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @Groupcentric and stay tuned here for updates about him and his work when they become available.
Questions for Nick
Q: What Does Your Company Do?
A: We built GROUPcentric – an SDK (Software Development Kit) that allows developers to add private sharing with group into their iPhone and Android applications. Our mobile app platform provides the ability to choose multiple pieces of rich content in an application to be sharable by users into new or existing group chats. The SDK keeps group sharing and conversations next to the original content source, increasing an applications user attraction, retention, and overall experience. All users are able to access and share to their persistent groups in any app utilizing our SDK. Developers are provided a full analytics dashboard to manage their account and see the amount of users, groups, and sharing that is occurring within their app.
Q: When Did You Start Your Company? Why?
A: Keith Bessette, the other co-founder, and I started working on Shizzlr during our first year at the University of Connecticut MBA program in 2009. We were fed up with being asked and not knowing the most common question asked on any campus: “What’s going on tonight?” A few months into school we decided that we wanted to do something different from go home, do homework, and press repeat the next day – and started to put in any additional free time into hashing out a solution to that question. Moonlighting, passing out flyers on weekends, creating fake clubs, and harassing our professors for guidance and any resources possible eventually led us to really working on the project full-time our last semester at the UConn Innovation Accelerator. Months of different platform MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), research, and tons of feedback eventually led us down a huge trail to the real core problem we continue to try to solve today – how do friends share content and communicate around it before taking some kind of action? A few months after graduation we released our first product – Shizzlr. About nine months ago, realizing we did not have the user growth and retention to continue with a user driven model, we pivoted to Groupcentric.
A: Our first small bit of funding came after winning a state business plan competition in 2010, shortly after which we were able to raise a round of $350,000 from a small group of Family and Friends and through Connecticut Innovations PreSeed fund. Within the past few months we have been able to secure additional funding through a strategic investor group and follow-up from Connecticut Innovations.
Q: What Have the Top 3 Challenges Been in Your Startup Process?
A: I have realized over time that each day, and each time this is asked, the answer to this question changes for me. So here goes for the top three I think today. A huge realization sometime in the beginning was the need to build a team that was capable of solving whatever solution we were going after. Finding a person that just has a huge desire to learn, work independently without anyone looking over their shoulder, is passionate about the problem, not get discouraged by doubt or failed projects, and willing to deal with complete uncertainty – is to say the least, difficult to find. We have worked off the saying, “Hire quick, fire quicker,” something Keith and I don’t enjoy doing, but it has saved us. Building a team that can work like ours was crucial, and took tons of mistakes to learn how to do. A second challenge for us is sticking with MVPs before taking in data, analyzing, and moving forward. What we have gone through, and seen others go through, is the idea you need to catch up to your competitors with products and features to be able to compete. Not true. That mindset almost killed us. Recognizing when we were feature creeping, and understanding the importance of every minute allocated to a single component of a project was key to us during the pivot. Keeping that mentality of understanding version 1 versus version 5. And lastly figuring out how to get someone to use your service/product. I never fully understood the stories an Advisor used to tell us (still does) of companies with the best mouse traps and just inept ability to get anyone to use it. We recognized the speed at which we can figure out what incentives are needed to get someone to change habits or give something new a chance is more directly related to our success than anything else.
Q: Define Entrepreneur.
A: Someone who believes they can solve a problem better than everyone else and willing to run through walls to make it happen. Attributes that come to mind are: working on something beyond reason and doubt, being able to block out all hate from everyone frightened of a new idea, acceptance of a failure, and being incentivized by the idea they can add value to the world, and not money to their pockets.
Q: Read any Good Books Lately?
A: Yes – but not enough. I read so many tech and startup blogs each day that when I do get a chance to read a book, it’s not directly related to the topic above. I’ve revisited The Hobbit and The Great Gatsby recently because I love reading a book before the movie comes out. An awesome book is the Jane Leavy Mickey Mantle book The Last Boy — I think Mick’s flaws turned out to be his redeeming qualities. I just recently began reading Life by Keith Richards. I can’t wait to get into that some more.
Q: What is Your Advice for an Entrepreneur Starting Out?
A: Someone said that a week of a startup is filled with six days of utter frustration and one day of euphoria. After doing this 2+ years I cannot disagree. My advice is to be prepared to go through those six days every week, but know that seventh day is coming sometime soon.
Q: What is Your Favorite Entrepreneurship Quote?
A: I always have loved a quote from Steve Jobs: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Despite its simplicity I have somewhat attached a certain value to the two things and use them almost every day. Hungry to me means still waking up in the middle of the night with an idea, change, thought and getting up to work on it because it cannot wait. It frightens me constantly that one day I will wake up and not have that. Staying foolish, in a sense, means that despite those days you have to work on financial reports, business plans, investor updates – all the “serious” stuff of a business – you still are working on a new idea with a team you love to work with, so enjoy it.