The Winner’s Journey
Insights from 2010’s Winners
Panelists: Zia Yusuf, CEO, Streetlline; Albert Santalo, CEO, CareCloud; and Ashifi Gogo, CEO, Sproxil.
Moderator: Victor Westerlind, Rockport Capital.
Santalo: We started off aiming to be the Salesforce.com of healthcare, but now we see that we can use technology to transform the healthcare system. “Entrepreneurship is an act of faith, not an act of logic. You have to see the door and run through it.”
Gogo: We connect consumers with brand owners in the pharmaceutical industry. That way consumers can be assured that what they’re buying is the real thing, not a counterfeit drug, and it’s safe to use. We’re now operating in Ghana, Kenya and India.
Yusuf: There are a lot of startups coming into smarter cities. We’re creating an ecosystem that makes the play work. We have a partnership with IBM, and we’re together building an enabling ecosystem around what we’re doing. Over time you have partners come in and build even more value.
Westerlind: How do you land the first customer?
Santalo: Get a strategic investor that is your customer. You get instant validation in the market, and get capital at the same time.
Yusuf: “Your value proposition has to be pretty darned compelling.” We came up with the concept of a startup kit. You offer the city 50 to 100 spaces at an attractive cost. You start with a few spaces and expand. In LA we’re expanding to 8000 spaces. We started with a few hundred. You give them enough that they can experience the service and see how well it works.
Gogo: Pharma companies don’t like change. Our sales cycles can be quite long. Channel partners can come in handy. They can absorb some of the costs of getting things going.
Westerlind: How have you embraced change as you engaged the marketplace?
Santalo: “Change just has to be part of what you do.” Our mission didn’t change, but we changed how we positioned ourselves and the elements of the core product.
Gogo: “Don’t be pigeon-holed by your client’s feedback.” You have to set your own priorities.
Yusuf: We started as a sensor company. Now we’re an apps and a consumer company. We’re reinventing the parking business. It’s not about parking meters and sensors but data analytics and parking management. “You can argue that we’re not in the parking business at all. We’re in the property management and the revenue management business.”
Westerlind: What was your path to raising money?
Yusuf: When you come out with something that people have not seen before, it’s difficult. We went through a bunch of VCs who didn’t understand the industry that we were trying to reinvent. But then we found people who understood it.
Gogo: “Go as far as you can without VCs.” Go to clients. Sell. Make money. Then, when you need to expand, raise money.
Santalo: “Be picky about who you raise money from.” We met with 200 VCs for our angel round.