Stefan Midford, President & CEO, Natural Insight
Hometown: Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
Advice you’d give to a new/interested entrepreneur? Everyone has an opinion and you will receive lots of advise from the “experts”. Consider all the input, surround yourself with smart people - but stick to your passions and create something you are proud to call your own!
As a founder, best thing about being based in DC area? Worst?
Best: The tech entrepreneur community is fairly small and there are great opportunities to build supportive networks of advisors, friends and business partners.
Worst: The dominance of government services companies stifles the efforts to build a product based ecosystem with a passion for growing companies that will deliver true long term growth to the region.
John Swigart, Co-founder and CEO, Pie Insurance
Hometown: McLean, Va
Story: After 13 years as CFO and CMO of Esurance, I was shocked to find the commercial insurance industry had virtually no digital direct offering for small business owners. It took me a few months to get my head around the reality that this industry still operates much like it did in the 80s and 90s, pre-Internet.
Advice: Focus on building your team with A-talent and doers. Every person makes a huge impact if you pick the right people. Don’t start with too many senior people how need “teams” under them to get anything done. Be ruthless in only spending time on the most important items and be careful about scope creep and distractions. If you not saying “no” to meeting requests, idea exploration, etc., you’re not focused enough.
As a founder, best thing about DC region: Small but vibrant start-up community. Very supportive folks on all fronts who genuinely want to support start-up companies. After living the Bay Area for year, I’ve seen how hard it came be to compete for talent in that market. It is easier to standout here as great opportunity for someone who wants to work at a start-up.
Worst thing: Most people are not familiar with the unique aspects or working for a start-up, so your potential talent is a bit smaller as many folks are not comfortable with the risks.
James Quigley, CEO & Co-founder, GoCanvas
Hometown: New York... but proudly living in Virginia for past 20 years.
Story or event that inspired your company/venture? Was working on a project to collect information to stop global pandemics.
As a founder, best thing about being based in DC area? Worst? We have amazing talent and resources - we need to do a better job telling our story.
Nicole Gallub, Founder and CEO, Pelonkey
Story: I started this company based on my own experience of being a performer and not having enough access to transparent, ethical entertainment agents out there. I wanted to create a company where all people in the events industry, planners and performers, can come to find vetted, hands down talented performers, but also operate on ethical expectations with safety, pricing and breaks for food, etc.
Advice: Advice I'd give is to start simple. REALLY simple. Like pen and paper simple. Add all the bells and whistles only after you've proven an ROI to do so.
Best part of DC: Being in the DC is great for ambitious people ready to make a difference. It's not as competitive as other bigger cities, and the opportunities DC has to offer are FAR within reach to those who really have the fire under their tush to get it.
The worst is that DC has so much business to offer, sometimes it's hard to get out of DC into other cities....it keeps you very busy!