Give us a brief recap of your entrepreneurial career since you graduated from Owen:
I started a company called Tripeezy during my time at Owen. It was at that point I decided that there was no return for me to the corporate world, I was meant to start companies. After graduation, I moved back to Austin to start working on Tripeezy full time and joined many startup organizations there. I learned a lot about how to learn and grow a company without many resources. It is amazing what can be done with little time or money these days to prove out a theory or business idea.
I was accepted to a program called Startup Chile and moved down to Santiago, Chile for about 8 months the year after Owen. This was an incredible opportunity to test out my ideas, build relationships and travel around a beautiful country building my product. After the program I moved home and decided that it was time to close up shop on Tripeezy. I learned a lot working on that business that has helped me an incredible amount in my latest venture, but I was lacking too many resources and time to truly make it happen.
Through my connections in Chile, I teamed up with a group that was working on online travel agency software for small lodgings around the world. I spent about a year working with them to flip their software into a plausible business idea and flew all over to NYC, San Francisco, London and other amazing places raising money and making connections. At the end of that year we were accepted into TechStars Boston, one of the leading startup programs in the world. I moved to Boston in August 2012 and we launched Dashbell during that 3 month program. I have now been in Boston working on Dashbell, which is a software as a service platform for small lodgings to take bookings and sync all of their connections to travel agencies like Expedia, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and AirBnB. We have a team here in Boston and have raised about $1.3M in Angel funding over the past 2 years. It has been an incredible ride and a fantastic set of experiences.
How did you have the idea for Dashbell and what does the company do?
The idea for Dashbell came from our experience as a team working on BookingMarkets. We realized in the failure of the other project that the small lodgings we were working on didn't have any tools to help them run their business. During TechStars we took all the data that we had and worked with some initial clients to find the opportunity.
How is it going? What has been challenging and what have your big wins been so far?
There are daily challenges in running a startup, from hiring and team management, sales and marketing to product development. I think one of the major challenges is balancing how much money to raise in relation to growing the business, many startups get caught up in the "success" of raising money. In the end it is up to you to figure out the best balance to keep the business running and make sure your team is motivated to continue working hard. To me, seeing the customers using our platform and loving the experience, that is the biggest win that anyone can get from building a business.
How was the Techstars experience and how did it help you?
TechStars was an amazing experience. It is a very tough and quick 3 months of tearing apart and rebuilding your business. They bring in an incredible amount of mentors to help you decide how to build and grow your product. In the end though the network has been one of the best parts of the program. I have access to hundreds of founders to bounce ideas off of, ask for intros and discuss relevant topics at any given time.
What did Dashbell accomplish in 2014?
In 2014 we closed another angel round and then push hard on our product development. One of the biggest accomplishments was finally bringing connectivity to products like Booking.com and TripAdvisor to our customers. It has given us a big boost with our sales efforts and differentiates us from other competitors.
What are your goals for the company in the future?
We want to continue helping small lodgings globally get online and get connected. It is extremely rewarding to see our customers be able to advance their business in ways they never understood before trying our product.
Knowing what you know now, what advice do you have for current Owen students that want to start a company?
I would say, don't wait to start. There are so many things you can do alongside your classes at Owen as well as in the local community in Nashville. You can join a startup weekend, visit the local incubator, use your business idea as a project for one of your classes. The entire process of starting and building a business is a work in progress and you won't know everything when you start. No time like the present!