Entrepreneur Profile: Daniel Leitao, Conclave Labs
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 Daniel Leitao. He is the Developer of Conclave Labs, a boutique marketing and development firm that focuses on handling a low volume of high-quality work.
Q: What Does Your Company Do?
A: Conclave Labs is a development agency that works with companies at all stages on different web and mobile applications. We specialize in working with early stage ventures and building out Minimum Viable Products.
Q: When did you start your company? Why?
A: The founders started Conclave Labs in May 2012 to create the development agency that they wished they could have worked with on a previous venture. We saw a need for a development agency that had the ability to pivot an idea during a development project while understanding the entrepreneur’s perspective. We wanted entrepreneurs to be able to explain their concept directly to the developers working on their project rather than to a project manager running an offshore team.
Q: What are your funding sources?
A: Conclave Labs has been bootstrapped since Day 1 and the partners themselves have put money into the company to allow it to expand and grow. We are also constantly working through different grant programs so we can help our clients navigate those same programs. The largest challenge when bootstrapping and trying to stay lean is cash flow and collecting from clients on time. This is not a problem unique to startups but is the nature of any business. We faced another challenge when one of our partners who is in the National Guard was deployed while we were starting the business.
Q: What Have the Top 3 Challenges Been in Your Startup Process?
A: The largest challenge when bootstrapping and trying to stay lean is cash flow and collecting from clients on time. This is not a problem unique to startups but is the nature of any business. We faced another challenge when one of our partners who is in the National Guard was deployed while we were starting the business. It was a unique challenge, but we were able to adapt to overcome it and continue to grow. A final challenge we faced was the lack of a portfolio. Many of the partners had previously worked on projects but Conclave Labs as an agency did not have a strong portfolio. Prospective clients had to trust us based on our previous experiences and confidence that we would complete the project. Over the course of a year, we have been able to build a portfolio that we are proud to show to prospective clients.
Q: Define Entrepreneur.
A: An entrepreneur is an individual who is a risk taker, a perceiver, and a problem solver. An entrepreneur is constantly hungry and is willing to do anything to reach their vision. They do not know a work/life balance because of this drive. Entrepreneurs have more in common with professional athletes and artists than with many other professions.
Q: Read any Good Books Lately?
A: “Mick: The Real Michael Collins,” by Peter Hart. I was an Irish Studies Minor in college and I finally finished it. It had been my beach book for the past few years.
Q: What is Your Advice for an Entrepreneur Starting Out?
A: Build Your Team! We have worked on multiple startups now and know the most important thing is the team of people in the office working until the next morning with you. It is important to know that your core team will be able and willing to solve the problem. Also, don’t count hours or compare who contributes more because like any other team in life, there will be weeks or months or even years where one of the founders might put in more work than the other. You must remember that you are all working towards the same goal so don’t let personal feelings about fairness get in the way. This is not a business where you punch a card at the end of the day so don’t quarrel over whose is punched more because you shouldn’t be punching a card at all.
The title game is a dangerous one because everyone wants to be CEO, but make sure you figure out what that even means for your startup before you start handing out titles. When you get funded, you might not stay CEO and your buddy who works for you because he is your buddy won’t be staying as the CMO, so make sure he checks his ego at the door. Startups are not a place for an ego because it always needs to be a team effort so make sure everyone on your core team knows this. Collaboration is key. Surround yourself with the smartest people you know that enjoy working in the same environment. We opened up our office to other entrepreneurs looking for desks to collaborate further.
Finally, build your network. Just like your team, your network is what will help to determine your success. It was the combined networks of everyone at diffr3nt and Conclave Labs that helped them come in second place to Otter Box on a LifeHacker “Favorite iPhone Case” Vote. Through email, Facebook, Twitter, and phone calls we were able to get the vote out to help them reach second place. Without all of our networks, we would have not had the reach that we did. You never know when you may need a massive crowd of people to help you out, so make sure you keep well connected with your network and use a tool like Contactually.
Q: What is your favorite Entrepreneurship Quote?
A: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” -William Butler
The President of PubMatic, Kirk McDonald, said recently, “If you want a job in media, technology, or a related field, make learning basic computer language your goal this summer. There are plenty of services—some free and others affordable—that will set you on your way. Teach yourself just enough of the grammar and the logic of computer languages to be able to see the big picture. Get acquainted with APIs. Dabble in a bit of Python. For most employers, that would be more than enough. Once you can claim familiarity with at least two programming languages, start sending out those resumes.” I believe that so many of us use technology and don’t realize how it works. If you have an idea for an app, make sure you can understand the process and what you are paying for to ensure you make much smarter business decisions.