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Where Are They Now: JustLegal (Congo)

LEGAL CONSULTATION ON THE GO

 

August 14, 2017

 

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Despite rising tuition costs, some enterprising students begin recouping the price of their education before diplomas are even issued.  Take for example, the quartet that founded JustLegal, the online marketplace for legal advice.  The business began as a school project for Willy Ogorzaly (Marketing ex’14) and Tyler Cox (Marketing ex’14) in a University of Colorado Boulder entrepreneurial class in the spring semester of 2013.  By the time that Joe Burchard (IntRel ex’14) and Tyler VanNurden (CompSci ’15) rounded out the founding foursome, the team was working overtime to get the business off of the ground while also balancing their academic coursework.  And thus far, those efforts have been rewarded with multiple rounds of seed capital from angel investors, numerous awards from startup competitions, and a viable enterprise that has already expanded into new markets.

JustLegal is both a legal tech company and a marketplace, whose mission is to bring the attorney-client relationship online through video-chat and real-time scheduling services.  This makes legal advice more accessible and more affordable, especially for the highly mobile millennial generation.  Users of the site are typically clients in need of legal representation, particularly in the areas of criminal defense, immigration, business and family law.  Clients may browse the online database of attorneys, reviewing their experience, expertise, education and hourly rates.  Filters allow users to quickly compare competing attorneys in their areas.  Once clients select an attorney, they may book an appointment and connect via video-chat or meet in person.

The site is free-of-charge to clients, though they will have to pay market rates to the attorneys for any subsequent services received.  Since attorneys set their own rates, JustLegal itself does not practice price regulation.  Instead, the company earns its revenue from monthly subscription fees paid by their attorney members as well as a variable fee for every appointment scheduled.  Fees vary based on both location and field of practice.  For example, attorneys specializing in fields that tend to have higher case values – such as personal injury – will pay more than fields where these values tend to be lower – such as divorce.  In exchange for these fees, attorney members get access to the platform of clients, providing time and cost efficiencies.  The company estimates that it reduces the client acquisition cost for DUI recipients from the industry average of $1,000 to less than $500.  JustLegal only accepts attorneys who have met certain criteria within each field of law, including holding active licenses and having no history of malpractice or disbarring.

Given the transactional nature of the relationship exchange, many clients only use the platform once.  So the lifeblood of the business centers on the continuous attraction of new clients.  Marketing involves everything from website content and social media to direct mail and handouts left at co-working spaces.  However, the preferred method of marketing to clients is search engine optimization (“SEO”), or appearing in search results when people search for an attorney.  The company believes that SEO success cannot solely be achieved through paying search engines such as Google, so the team focuses on publishing current and relevant content to its website.  SEO is now the company’s primary source of client traffic, with +30% growth month-over-month throughout the past year.  The company also utilizes more traditional outbound sales routes such as handwritten letters, phone calls and emails.

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JustLegal is the brainchild of Ogorzaly.  A native Texan, he was enticed to CU-Boulder by the snow and mountains.  Within the walls of Koelbel Hall, he found students applying scholarly logic to topics that they were passionate about.  Academia was no longer just about studying for exams and writing term papers, it was a vehicle through which you could achieve your business goals.  It was as a junior marketing major in the Leeds School that his revelation came during a business law class, when he wondered to himself what a tort was.

“It was a simple question straight out of a textbook,” he recalled, “but I was blown away at the lack of information on legal concepts.  When I Googled the definition, it read, ‘A tort is a tortious act committed by a tortfeasor.’”

In search of a better answer to the question, he typed ‘video chat with a lawyer’ into Google, but was once again surprised when he didn’t find a website offering this. He thought that if this service was available, the average consumer would have greater access to legal services.

Now armed with a problem to solve, he needed a platform in which to test it.  That opportunity came in the spring of 2013, in the form of assistant professor Eva Yao’s entrepreneurial environment undergraduate course.  Students were required to organize into small groups to brainstorm startup ideas, devise feasibility analyses, and pitch their ideas to the class.  Ogorzaly quickly recruited others to join him in pursuit of his idea.  Of the five classmates in the original group, Ogorzaly and Cox would go on to see the idea through to business formation.

Years later, Yao recalled that the team stood out despite being among a particularly strong crop of teams that semester.  On the first day of class, she displayed pictures of famous entrepreneurs on the overhead projector, and queried the class, somewhat rhetorically, on who intended to be as successful as these leaders one day.  Only two students raised their hands, Cox and Ogorzaly.

“It was very obvious that they wanted to do something, their own thing, to make a mark on this world,” Yao said.  “Those two work well together, they match each other with balance and temperament.”

Startups pursue a variety of means with which to prove their concepts and achieve validation.  In software development, alpha testing is an improvement process in which a company’s internal developers test their applications over and over until it has a workable product.  Once this is complete, the process may progress to a beta phase in which external users are allowed to simulate actual usage.  This is a useful way to evaluate real-world practicality and receive feedback before launching the end-product.  While JustLegal did use beta testing, it hastened the process by simultaneously entering into competitions to provide additional feedback.

“We took a weird path,” mused Ogorzaly.  “Before we even got to Lean validation, we went the competition route.  We lost many of them, but every competition was making us a better company because we were getting advice from mentors and judges along the way.”

Yao believes that the competition circuit is a good way to collect input beyond that being given by a professor in a classroom setting.  Even more so nowadays with accelerators, a form of boot camp for startups, gaining popularity.  Furthermore, competitions generate local publicity and news coverage that naturally exposes startups to networks that may include mentors and angel investors, while chances to win prize money prove valuable to cash-strapped entrepreneurs.

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Though the company’s casual office culture is typical of other startups – complete with a ping-pong table and stand-up desks – the company’s vision is very structured.  Led by the cerebral Ogorzaly, JustLegal implements formulaic startup strategies including the minimum viable product approach and the Lean Startup methodology.  This latter strategy is a nod to Yao’s class, as it is a philosophy taught by Leeds’ entrepreneurship instructors.  The premise is continuous process improvement through investigation and iteration, with constant feedback from customers, mentors and peers.  Testing assumptions in the marketplace allows a startup to frequently ask and answer questions in order to maximize its chances for success.  For JustLegal, this meant coding and recoding a scheduling widget until it was user-friendly enough to allow clients to book appointments with attorneys.  In fact, within the first 60 hours of testing the scheduling technology, the company booked its first two clients through the widget, before doing any marketing.

If the Lean Startup method is executed properly, by the time that the product or service is distributed widely, it already has a base of interested stakeholders, a battle-tested idea and hopefully validation.  If negative feedback is received, the startup may decide to pivot and change its course.  In its early stages, JustLegal encountered many such pivot points.  For example, they were told by Yao and others that their initial scope of catering to doctors, lawyers and other professionals was too broad.  Deciding to focus exclusively on lawyers was difficult because the legal industry was notoriously slow to adopt technology.

“It felt like we were throwing away half of our work and limiting future revenue potential,” said Burchard.  “But narrowing our scope allowed us to focus on and master one area of expertise.”

Ogorzaly (center) and Cox rehearsing their pitch at the University of Northern Colorado’s Monfort Entrepreneurial Challenge in 2014

 

Some of the most impactful pieces of feedback were also the most sobering, but the team forced itself to be open to any and all criticism. Narrowing its business plan to the legal profession set JustLegal on a blue-ocean course that very few startups in the industry were taking.  The novelty of niche specialization, combined with a commitment to investigative process improvement, helped to turn the tide in their favor towards the end of 2014.  They soon began winning competitions and awards.  In addition to being named Boulder Chamber’s 2014 Venture of the Year, the team placed first in Boulder’s Esprit Venture Challenge, Denver’s Pitchers in Pitches and Boulder’s 2015 IBM Smartcamp.  This latter victory was just what the company needed to gain legitimacy.  It propelled them on a years-long journey through IBM’s national qualifying rounds, eventually leading to the launch festival in San Francisco in 2016, where JustLegal was named a Top 10 Global Startup.  In an interesting case of creative collisions, the Leeds Scholars program was also in the Bay Area at the same time on its annual Entrepreneurship Trek.  JustLegal team members were able to mingle with their junior counterparts from CU-Boulder, mostly underclassmen business majors, one of whom they hired as an intern.

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Another crucial pivot point for the company involved the decision to change the company name.  Not once, but twice.  In its early stages, the company called itself “Congo”, an amalgamation of the tagline, “consulting on the go”.  Since the website Congo.com was already taken, the group purchased Congo.io, on a lesser known domain.  One of the team’s early investors identified this as a problem, as most legitimate companies utilize the dot-com domain, specifically with companyname.com formats for its website, especially tech-based firms.  They gauged the interest of Congo.com’s owner in selling the domain name, and learned that the price tag was a princely sum of $750,000.  After having a good laugh over the thought, the team began moving towards a rebrand in late 2015, but not without injecting some fun in the process.  In the spirit of the competitions that had helped them so much thus far, they opened up the selection to the public through a crowd-sourcing contest.  Contestants could enter the naming contest for a chance to win prize money, the only rule being that the companyname.com domain must be available at an affordable price of no more than $3,000.  After receiving an alarming 700 entries, the team recruited another mentor, Natty Zola of Techstars, to help narrow the field.  After a mind-mapping exercise on numerous whiteboards, none of the entries excited them enough to adopt, so they donated the prize money to charity.  But they did use a mashup of some of their favorite entries to yield the name “LawBooth”.  The new branding conveyed a Turkish bazaar image, where the product for sale was legal services.

The team working in its first office during the Congo era

However, after operating for over a year as LawBooth, the team began to reconsider their company name once again.  Their new investors were not enamored with it, and users were focusing on the word “law” as an indicator of advice or news on legislation.  So in February 2017, the company became “JustLegal,” its third name in less than two years.  The first part of the name serves as a double meaning of expressing a narrow dedication to the industry, as well as an abbreviation of the word “justice”.  And adjusting to the word “legal” instead of “law” more appropriately reflected the legal services that they were connecting clients to.

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JustLegal is a company born and bred by CU-Boulder, and the team is quick to credit the Leeds School for its initial spark.  Beyond Yao’s entrepreneurial class, the team was influenced by other professors such as Liz Stapp of Leeds’ Center for Education on Social Responsibility and adjunct professor David Cass, who were instrumental with both advice and connections.  Among school-sponsored competitions, the team participated in the New Venture Challenge, Launch Lab and Catalyze CU, the latter being a summer program through which the company met its angel investor.

 Ogorzaly was a student in Stapp’s social responsibility undergraduate course the semester before he took Yao’s class.  Once his business idea began taking shape, he sought Stapp’s advice due to her expertise on value-driven enterprises and her experience as a practicing attorney before joining the academic world.  Stapp encouraged Ogorzaly and Cox to incorporate early to establish legitimacy during competitions.  Then upon formation, she accepted a position on the young company’s board of directors, a post that she still holds today.

“From the very beginning, all the signs were pointing to the fact that this idea made sense,” Stapp recalled.  “It was a market void that needed to be filled.”

Stapp describes her role as providing perspective, particularly with the many pivot points that the team has encountered.  Going the competition route introduced the company to many mentors, each with their own set of opinions.  Since the business idea was so novel, some of the advice was conflicting.  Stapp advised the company to be selective in whose advice to follow.

“I told them that the reason why this isn’t in the market right now is because nobody like them has brought it there yet,” she said.  “So listen to these experts, but don’t always defer.  You need to do what’s right for you.”

Stapp credited JustLegal’s success on the competition trail to necessity.  Many of the groups that they were competing against already had some form of seed funding to sustain their platforms.  JustLegal did not.  So they were using the competitions themselves – and any associated prize money – as those sources of early funding.  Which meant that they had to win, or else.  Since the team made winning an issue of survival, rather than simply justification for a hobby, the events became more than mere contests.

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Of the four co-founders, all but VanNurden is still with JustLegal today.  The company used its initial series of funding to attract seasoned startup veterans to its team and to improve and expand its platform.  Additionally, the team has worked hard to scale operations across its entire business plan, namely geography (from Colorado to Texas and beyond), user demographics (from college students to the greater millennial generation) and attorney specialties (from defense law to other practices such as personal injury).

The team in Boulder, Colorado during the LawBooth era

The company’s original target audience was the CU-Boulder student population, which the founders cheekily found to be captive – given the school’s annual placement near the top of the party-school rankings – and in need of criminal defense for offenses such as underage drinking.  But now that the concept has been proven, the group is in expansion mode.  In late 2016, the team relocated to Austin, Texas, to participate in the Capital Factory  accelerator program. In addition to being Ogorzaly’s hometown, Austin provides many of the same advantages as Boulder.  And for now at least, the move appears to be permanent.

“Geographic expansion is a methodical process, since we need to collect information on attorneys from other websites,” Ogorzaly explained.  “Once we have established our marketplace in Texas, we hope to raise an additional round of capital in order to continue to expand nationally.”

To date, the company has connected over 200 clients to over 60 attorneys.  If all continues to go according to plan, JustLegal’s name will soon appear on the first page of results whenever someone searches for an attorney online.  Once users click on the company’s website link, they will have access to the most exhaustive directory of attorneys on the internet, with the most intelligent matchmaking algorithms to pair clients with attorneys.  The company is also working with other software providers such as online payment processor, LawPay, in order to bolster its platform.  The goal then is to become an end-to-end digital presence for attorneys, from outbound marketing to revenue management.

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For more information on JustLegal, please visit the company’s website or contact Frank Burns at francis@justlegal.com

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About the Blogger:

 

Timothy Bracken (MBA’11) is a Leeds alumnus and contributor to the business school’s alumni blog, focusing on startups founded by Leeds students and alumni.  He lives in the Denver area with his wife and two children.  If you have suggestions for future articles, you may contact him at tmbracken2@gmail.com.

Business Showcase: Congo.io

Tell me how Congo was founded.

Congo emerged out of an entrepreneurial class at CU where two passionate students mobilized around an issue. Just before the class was given a project, Willy was reading a business law textbook in the library, which was peculiar for him. As he was reflecting with me the other day, it was this moment that serendipitously ignited an unforgettable journey. He came across a part of the textbook that didn’t explain it well and then went to Google. There was conflicting information, poorly designed websites and overall an extremely frustrating experience due to the lack of necessary information in a presentable manner. Appalled to find there was nothing to satisfy his curiosity, he then assumed there would be a way to video chat with an attorney, but there was no such thing. This was 2 years ago and couple months, where the problem was identified. The market and the fact that there was information you couldn’t find online beckoned at them. There idea was validated instantaneously when they already had lawyers asking to use their service. When their class project ended, Willy and his partner Tyler mutually agreed they wanted to continue what they started.

What have you guys found that made you guys successful?

The go-getter attitude is undeniably ingrained in Congo’s company culture. For example, Congo was at a tech conference where teams were standing at a booth showcasing their startups. Every team was just sitting around waiting for people to come to them while Congo was running around expending all their energy to make connections and network. Centered on a belief towards feeling obligated to solve a problem because nobody else will, can be exhausting. But the passion in every person on the team amps everyone up in a self-sustaining feedback loop. People get down, but there is always someone on the team who wants to keep pressing on. This type of perseverance is incomprehensible and emulates what any startup needs in order to fight for change.

Are you driven by the determination to succeed or the fear of failure?

What if there was no such thing as success or failure but just learning. There was comfortable learning and uncomfortable learning. Viewing the startup process as an uncomfortable learning situation makes it naturally more fun therefore being scared of failure is irrelevant to the value of the process. The team has had many uncomfortable learning experiences, which directly translate into growth in team chemistry and confidence. The belief in the vision of what Congo can do only gets stronger as the team continues to learn and grow together.

How will we interact with lawyers in the future?

Well our business model wont be valuable in the future due to the rapid growth of computer technology. Congo is based around the user and making what’s most effective and efficient for them. That’s the way Congo thinks as a company and they’ll be willing to adapt down the road. Right now the legal industry has yet to be disrupted through the democratization of lawyer consultation via an online platform. The future of lawyer consultation in the next couple years is to be able to manage your whole case online from finding your attorney to going through the legal processes to post case engagement. Possibly way far in the future, it may be just engaging with AI attorney, but Congo is aware of the trends and will be prepared to pivot to what serves its users best.

 

Why did your company apply to the Catalyze accelerator and how has it benefitted your company thus far?

Catalyze offers structure to the Congo family as well as a community of fellow entrepreneurs. The energy that this co-working space provides and the mentors that it offers are so valuable to a young early-stage startup. Catalyze is helping Congo gain some traction and is allowing them to approach investors with a little more than what they could before. This week over week progress is what’s accelerating their company forward and displaying a sense of urgency for Congo and its investors.

Spotlight: Fletcher Richman

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Fletcher Richman is a Co-Founder of Spark Boulder and Catalyze CU. He currently works at Galvanize Ventures.

What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?

For Fletcher, being an entrepreneur and being an engineer are very interrelated but have one key difference. An engineer builds things for the technical challenge of the project, where an entrepreneur builds stuff that people will actually use. Therefore to build things that add value to other people’s lives is what being an entrepreneur is.

 What have you done that you feel differentiated you from the pack?

Fletcher says there is not one crazy or out of the ordinary thing that he did that made him successful. Although, their are a few simple small things that he tells everyone, which made surprisingly a big difference. One thing is to constantly look for new opportunities. There are so many events, activities, clubs to be apart of so don’t settle for just one. Second, is to say yes to everything. “You have a ton of free time. Say yes to every club, every activity and spread yourself super thin and then that forces you to choose the things you actually like.” This is one of the best ways to really find what you’re passionate about and find what you really like to do. Finally, one of the most important things to do is to follow through. People these days don’t respond to the emails they get, set meeting times and then don’t show up, or say they’re going to do something and then don’t. It seems like pretty simple stuff but surprisingly almost 98% of people don’t do these simple things, which Fletcher says for him made all the difference.

 What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur who is a freshman at CU Boulder?

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur as a freshman, that’s awesome, you’re ahead of the game. Being in Boulder is a great place for entrepreneurship so that also gives you a huge advantage. But have a good time as a freshman and sit on it for a year because most likely you will be working your tail off after that. Go to some events, maybe join a club but generally try to enjoy college for at least a year. Spend time trying to find what your passionate about and then go pursue that. Once you have an idea, don’t spend time making business plans or doing market research, just go make something.

 What ignited you to start Spark and Catalyze?

There are all sorts of amazing startups in Boulder and Fletcher wanted to add value to their lives in some way. These companies had a need that Fletcher realized he could help with. Fletcher identified this great startup scene was completely unrelated to the university. He had access to a ton of great students who otherwise didn’t really know how to engage in the startup community. It was then his mission to connect the two worlds by making it easier for students to connect to startups and for startups to connect with students. Spark was the culmination of his vision on how he could help the community at the time. The natural evolution once you brought these students into the entrepreneurship scene with things like Spark and New Venture Challenge was to keep them doing their projects during the summer and thus the Catalyze accelerator was founded.

 How do you see the Boulder Startup community evolving? How is Boulder going to pave the way? How is Spark going to be apart of that?

Boulder startup community is now being looked at as the model. Boulder is kind of the first thriving startup community outside of Silicon Valley. A lot of smaller ecosystems are looking to Boulder on how to succeed. One big thing you’re going to see is the connection between Boulder and Denver. There is only so much space and only so many people in Boulder, so you’re really going to see this cross-city collaboration.

 

Spotlight: Doug Smith

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Doug Smith is an alumnus of the College of Engineering and Applied Science with a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Doug about his vision to launch Catalyze as well as getting the inside scoop on his philosophy of being an entrepreneur in today’s fast paced business world.

 

From your experience being in the work field, how do you go about solving big problems?

Doug believes the first thing you have to do is understand what is going on. What is the true issue? Often having a firm understanding of the problem is the most challenging aspect in finding any solution. You get a lot of different perspectives from a lot of different people so not just accepting what initially seems obvious is the problem but really looking in deeper than that. Really identifying the problem from all possible angles is the most difficult piece because once you identify the problem and you know where you want to go, then you can figure out the steps in between.

 

What motivates you to solve those problems?

Part of what motivates Doug in solving problems is in his DNA as an engineer. That uneasy sense we feel when we’re aware there are problems means there is something out of balance. It’s un-nerving and trying to return it to stability just feels natural. Generally when solving problems you’re helping someone in the process and making sure you don’t hurt anyone else. Trying to do good and helping people is what Doug really enjoys about his line of work.

 

Do you feel responsible for solving problems in the world?

Doug believes having ownership of the problem itself is essential in coming up with innovative solutions. What Doug found as a differentiator was when you owned the problem and really cared about what was happening. “How closely do you identify with it, how much do you own it, how much of it becomes apart of you”; all are questions you need to ask yourself as an entrepreneur. There were times when Doug worked as a consultant in engineering on behalf of someone else where his obligations were to identify the solutions. It was up to his clients to decide the solution that they wanted and then he would help them implement it. But certainly there were times when he felt they were making the wrong choice and he would really advocate for what he felt was the right choice. That sometimes was good and other times bad. If he felt passionate enough about it, he would carry it through even if it wasn’t his job to do so. People tend to follow your leadership more and rally around the problem as a team when you are more attached to the problem. When Doug looks at hiring people to do things, if they really care about what they’re saying it helps him in choosing them to be part of his team. Doug chooses someone who is more passionate about a solution and an alternative then someone who is more distant and not engaged. Passion drives success and winning organizations.

 

Tell me how Catalyze was founded?

Doug and his team spoke to a host of schools to learn what they were doing and it was fascinating because whether it was USC, UCLA, CAL Berkeley, Stanford, MIT, Arizona State, and the University of Washington they all had their unique genesis. Some programs emerged from the business school another from Engineering, one was Social studies; Catalyze came from engineering and business. But as Doug and his team talked to them and had some perceptions from Brad Feld’s book they gained a sense of what they wanted to do. Last spring when Catalyze CU was initiated, it was vital to incorporate that business and engineering mindset into Catlayze’s core principles. This is a short blurb of Doug talking with Dave Cohen and Brad Feld in regards to the genesis of Catalyze CU;

“Do you want to build businesses or teach these students?” We want to do both. “Well you can’t do that” Well I think we can. “No, you cant do that. You can do one or the other but not both”.

After the meeting they took a step back and talked amongst themselves. It came clear that Catalyze is associated with the University of Colorado-Boulder so the mission is in one sense education. Catalyze wants to help take their businesses to next level but also want to enrich the student experience. It’s important that students grow as people and also that they grow an understanding of entrepreneurism, and if someone else hires them they’re going to be ready for it.

 

What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Try it! If you have an idea or see a solution, give it shot. Here is an example; were sitting in a restaurant and were wondering about our parking meter. Well I ought to have an app for that. It’s that kind of thing where you see and recognize a problem that exists in your everyday life and you come up with a solution. Well then pursue it and chase it down and get it done. It could be a social problem, it could be something in the lab that came up, or a problem that directly affects your everyday life, just get after it. Risk taking is the key to success.

 

What excites you about the next generation of entrepreneurs given the tools and resources you have built for them?

This next generation is still living and learning through experience like all generations before but they’re doing that much faster. Instead of saying you can only learn this much at this age, we are realizing that actually you can learn a lot more and so why not expose our young entrepreneurs to that. So I think what we’re seeing is a much less hierarchical, much less structured kind of business environment so that young people with great ideas can see them realized rapidly or fail quickly. Failure is a big part of this; but that’s great because they learn through the failure process. Whether these students are part of a startup or a big company, they are being exposed to real world activity, which significantly helps them to think outside the box. I remember being a younger engineer in a big company and thinking how lethargic and archaic it operated; we just weren’t in tune with our customers or what was going on. We were a legacy organization. Our students today are much better equipped because they have already gone through the innovation process, there is no mystery, and they get it. There is no secret sauce you have to have, its pretty straight forward. I’ve done it and I can do it here as well will be their attitude.

Business Showcase: Kitables

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This an automated Rubik’s Cube solver that you can build with a Kitables kit.

The company Kitables, builds DIY (do-it-yourself) kits for people who like to build things. They ship the equipment and instructions necessary to construct tons of cool projects. Kitables, like most other startups, came out of series of strange events. Arieann, the Co-Founder and CEO of Kitables, was at another start-up at the time when the CEO of that company had her making various chemical crystals. Her boss recommended selling how to make these crystals in a kit. Originally, Arieann brushed of the idea of selling these crystals in kits but on her birthday while driving up to the mountains it all clicked. She thought the idea wouldn’t work because she would run out of ideas on what to kit, but when she realized there was a website of instructables for seemingly infinite amount of projects, she knew she had something. Thoughts of the business flowed through her mind instantaneously. The name Kitables was formed and along with the tag line “get your DIY on”.

Then after sharing this idea with the rest of her start-up, the team transitioned to this new promising vision. They launched a Kickstarter campaign, raised money and gained a community. It all seemed like a new beginning for the team but then problems arose with the initial Founders and the team started to fall apart. Shortly after, it was just Arieann and her idea. Arieann then posted a job on Craig’s list where she met Malcolm. Arieann pitched Malcolm the idea over coffee and the two of them instantly hit it off. They both share a deep passion for building things. They mutually agreed that their skills were very complementary and the new Kitables team was formed.

Arieann and Malcolm grew up using their hands and building things. Being an engineer and making things came very naturally to them but they didn’t want to limit the things that they would build. Making kits for millions of different things to build was very appealing to them. They wanted to share their love of building things with the world by making the maker movement trendier and in order to do this, they needed to make it easier to adopt. They want to ship out kits in ascetically appealing packages with all the tools and instructions necessary to become apart of this DIY community. They understand that people like to build fun challenging things but the process of obtaining the challenge is hard to come by. They believe that the DIY community has many things to build for kids but a lack of more challenging things for adults. Their mission is to create kits for adults by increasing the challenge in the kits. They’re both already involved in this maker movement and believe there is something missing from this community. They wished there was something like this out there when they were younger and that it is why they’re passionate and driven about this company.

Arieann and Malcolm are very grateful for the opportunity to be apart of Catalyze as they saw it was necessary to get there prototype out for their Kickstarter campaign. They plan to utilize the mentorship that Catalyze offers to give them a greater understanding of how to market their products. Also the Kitables team is highly technical so getting access to the more business side on how to build a product is very valuable to them. This is a highly motivated and talented team which is why we believe that Kitables is going to revolutionize how to build complex things.

Spotlight: Eben Johnson

Eben Johnson

This is Eben, a world-class doer.

Eben is a guy who knows how to make things happen. Eben describes his perceptional advantage as an entrepreneur from his firm understanding of both engineering and business. This unique lens emerged from receiving a B.S in industrial management operations research from Carnegie Mellon as well as an M.B.A from UC Davis. His core philosophy behind his line of work is that “all of our needs as humans have been known to us since the beginning of time, our job is to bring new novel solutions.” Being an entrepreneur for Eben is part of who he is as an individual. Eben describes his technical problem solving ability as knowing that it is the “intersection of business and engineering” that allows him to tackle challenges. He has been a Co-Founder, Founder, and the first employee for about 7 different startups. He lives, eats and breathes the start-up world.

Eben thinks Americans are too insulated and takes it as his responsibility to prepare our engineers for the real world. When asked how he prepares the next generation of entrepreneurs, he mentioned, “Many of the engineers know how to do something. I am trying to suggest to them why.” Eben sees the big picture with things yet also has enough technical understanding to get things done. For any young entrepreneur out there, this is a guy you want to get to know.

One of the early founders of Catalyze approached Eben about getting involved with the program. Eben immediately knew this was something he was passionate about and took on the role last year as Managing Director. This year Eben is considered a super-mentor and teams like Big-Blue use him as an advisor on how industry and manufacturing work. Eben specifically likes electro mechanical manufactured goods and says he loves things made in factories.

He views Catalyze like any start-up. He envisions a lot of growth for what this accelerator can offer students and faculty. More people are becoming aware of what this program adds to the community. And like any other start-up it has shown growth, given there were more teams this year than last year. Eben thinks this is a very promising program in the Boulder community. He hopes that Catalyze can find its niche in this start-up community and offer value. He has a lot of faith in Mark as a Director and believes in what he can accomplish this year as he now has another year under his belt. The best is yet to be for entrepreneurship in Boulder, Colorado.

 

 

 

Business Showcase: GoodEats Meats

GEMteampic

Meet Sam Traub and Matt Higgins with GoodEats Meats who bring everything smoked BBQ to life.

The two founders of GoodEats Meats have a strong friendship that started in the Bay Area of California where they grew up together. Now they have embarked on a mission to bring homemade BBQ to Boulder and the world in convenient form, to be shared in the comfort of one’s own home.

The company was inspired by Matt’s passion for smoked BBQ. He started by cooking high quality, smoked pork that would satisfy any BBQ connoisseur. After two years doing odd jobs around town he finally had enough to buy the smoker and thus he began researching the process and crafting quality smoked BBQ. As Matt’s skill improved, word of his expertise got out. GoodEats Meats quickly became the go-to for supplying the food at gatherings of family and friends.

As word travelled – first among friends, and then friends of friends – Matt and Sam realized that they had stumbled upon an opportunity. As college students they realized that hosting catered parties was really expensive, and preparing everything from scratch was ridiculously time consuming. Enter GoodEats Meats, the perfect combination of BBQ and business expertise.

Founded in February 2015, GoodEats set out with the intention of making the average Joe a professional BBQ smoker. Their tagline, “Fresh, home made, done right” epitomises their mission. Matt and Sam spend over 48 hours marinating, smoking and preparing each batch, so that you can have it ready in two minutes.

GoodEats was founded on trust, passion, and honesty. For them, transparency – in every sense of the word – is a commitment that they make to each and every customer. These values are displayed not only in the business side of their venture but down to the packaging of their product. They have packaged the sauce separately from the meat so that each customer can see the quality of the product and have the convenience of adding the sauce themselves. Sam says “BBQ isn’t just about the sauce. The sauce should complement the meat but the meat itself needs to have the right smoky flavor.”

Sam and Matt both believe that Catalyze will allow them to take their business to the next level.  What they value most is that Catalyze offers a culture that fosters creativity and innovation by allowing cross team collaboration as well access to a vast array of mentors. GoodEats Meats is in there infancy as a company but with a huge demand for their product there consumers are excited for the company’s growth so that their fresh homemade BBQ can be shared with the world.