When Scott Hill dipped his toe into the local startup community in 2009, the passion and entrepreneurial energy almost turned him away.
“I was deep in survival mode,” he told me as we toured the freshly renovated office of his startup, PERQ. “We were in the middle of the recession, and I wasn’t having nearly as much fun as those guys!”
Today, after posting a $30 million year in 2012, Hill is thankful for the role that the Indianapolis technology community has played in PERQ’s–and his own–growth. As we prepare to celebrate the launch of the PERQ brand and their FATWIN technology, Hill and I looked back on how he leveraged the support of the Indianapolis startup community to grow his company.
How to Leverage the Startup Community to Grow Your Business
Manage a Rapid Rise to the Top
Hill’s first company, an automotive marketing company called Tri-auto, grew very quickly. After expanding his team and hitting #58 on the INC 500 list, Hill became more comfortable navigating the world of entrepreneurship.
“After three years working on Tri-Auto, I was naive enough to think that I had this thing licked,” said Hill. “So we started Trace, and that company grew very quickly as well–it achieved #53 on the INC 500 list.”
Startup Community Soothes Growing Pains, Supports a Healthy Immune System
“At that point, the businesses were really ahead of our ability as managers and leaders to know how to harness it…We had these two exploding businesses, so we formed CIK as the holding company.”
Hill found himself trying to build a businesses around two nearly unmanageable revenue streams, “Instead of building businesses that could stay in front of our revenue.”
And then the recession hit.
After losing 2/3 of their revenue and developing some serious grit, Hill and the PERQ team were able to assess what was left after the recession, where they were rebuilding from, and where they wanted to go in the future.
“The Community has played a huge part, for me personally to have these opportunities for the company.”
Startup Community Tip #1: Find Advocates and Build Your Own Think Tank
Todd Saxton, Indiana University Venture Faculty Fellow, was a key advocate for Hill in getting through the hard times. He believed in the product, and together Saxton and Hill created an informal think tank of prominent community leaders to help work through some of the challenges Hill was facing with PERQ. Hill credits some of those key community members with sparking the idea that helped guide PERQ forward.
Hill recalls Kevin Bailey and Michael Cloran in particular telling him, ‘If you could incentivize people to share socially while they’re actually engaged with your kiosk technology, you could really do some great things with that.’ “And really that little nugget, as an entrepreneur, all of a sudden,” said Hill, “When you feel that inspiration–boom boom boom.”
Startup Community Tip #2: Find the Passion to Keep Pushing
“Going to Verge, I forced myself out of my shell,” said Scott. “Out of that depression. I mean, we had lost two thirds of our revenue. It was extreme.”
Sometimes, when the going gets tough, it’s hard to get going–no matter how tough you are. The support of the community helped motivate Hill to keep pushing, to keep growing. Today he’s helping inspire other entrepreneurs like they did for him.
In Hill’s words, it’s about, “Getting out and into that community that hadn’t been there the first time we were growing the businesses. So being there and being a part of that Verge energy, that passion [was key], along with seeing how the think tank worked, and then being able to have access to the marketing tech capital of the world.”
Celebrating and Sharing Learning Builds Community
To hear more about PERQ, see Scott Hill pitch FATWIN, get a tour of the office and connect with the Indianapolis technology community, join us for the PERQ Launch at Verge Pitch Night on November 20th.
Check out the full timeline of PERQ’s relationship with the Verge community over on the PERQ blog, and let me know how the community impacted your entrepreneurial journey in the comments!