THIS GUEST POST WAS WRITTEN BY SEVETRI M WILSON
When I set out to start a tech startup I had never run or built a technology company before. I wasn’t a software engineer and I certainly did not know how to code at the time.
It’s also important to note that I’m a first-generation college student, who grew up in a rural area of South Louisiana, and lost both of my parents before the age of 22. I say this because my success has not come easy nor without significant sacrifice.
In 2009, I started my first company Solid Ground Innovations, a strategic communications firm at 23 years old with zero outside investment capital, no partners, no business connections and little to any savings in the bank. I grew that company from $0 to a seven-figure company.
You can imagine when I told people I was venturing out to start a tech company they didn’t really understand why. For all reasonable purposes, it probably made more sense at the time to stay 100% focused on growing SGI.
Never being the one to let skepticism hold me back or back down from a challenge, I decided that I would move forward and venture deeper into the tech space.
So, where did the idea for ExemptMeNow come from?
In the early days of SGI we worked heavily with nonprofits both startup and existing, but we decided that as a professional services company we needed to pivot and consequently would no longer service startup nonprofits.
I was still very passionate about nonprofits and the good they brought to the world, and felt I had not given all I had to offer to the sector. I knew that if we could infuse technology into the services that we were previously providing, we would be able to reach more nonprofits nationally and provide a superior quality of service. We also felt our experience working with grantors would allow us to create data-driven metrics to increase the impact of investments ultimately driving collective impact. Collective impact essentially means to create large-scale, lasting change.
I also believed that a cultural shift was happening around the country and world, people were creating more social enterprises and nonprofits to leverage causes they were most passionate about. We did our research and found our theory to be correct. The nonprofit sector was growing at a percentage rate faster than the for-profit sector in the country, and giving was at an all-time high.
If you aren’t aware then let me tell you, technology is or will disrupt every sector in our lifetime. For me it wasn’t about whether or not I had the tech background it was about whether or not I was willing to be disrupted by technology or become one of the disruptors. I chose the latter.
I talk to so many of my friends and colleagues who come from very traditional spaces and they tell me about their ideas. Recently a friend, who is an investor in the trucking business, was discussing ways their company could evolve through the use of technology. They were trying to conceptualize and plan 20 years ahead and refused to turn a blind eye to what automation, robotics and transportation advances would mean to the trucking industry.
How can entrepreneurs and business owners ensure they aren’t left behind in what many are calling “the great technology divide”?
- Take a technology-driven course online. I applied and received a developer scholarship from Google. They give away thousands of scholarships to US residents eager to master web and mobile development skills. I found this to be beneficial in communicating with my engineers. It also gives you an edge if you aren’t at technical founder and are raising funding for a tech venture. Find out more here: https://www.udacity.com/grow-with-google .Harvard along with many others also offer a free introduction course just google Harvard CS50x.
- Read more books from those who have disrupted industries. Two books that I read in 2017 and would highly recommend are Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” and Mark Roberge’s “The Sales Acceleration Formula”. Yet, there are others such as “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses”, that are a part of the holy grail must-read books for anyone thinking about starting a startup venture. I would recommend this for anyone starting a company regardless of the industry.
- Network with people in the tech world. You can follow tech companies, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists online via their twitter pages where they are most active(LinkedIn, too). They often share insight regarding where they believe technology is headed, and cool companies that are disrupting industries today. Here’s a list to get you started: http://www.businessinsider.com/100-influential-tech-people-on-twitter-2014-4
I will always encourage entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas or to begin to think about how technology will change how they do business. You can actively take part in technology disruption and hopefully capitalize off it. I challenge you to think about how you can bring something others need to your industry whether it be to improve deficiencies or to lower costs. No tech experience required.
The opinions, representations, and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of Tierra Wilson, LLC as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.
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