NJTechWeekly.com talked to and interviewed dozens of N.J. startups in 2012. We understand that securing financing was the greatest challenge many faced during the year.
So we asked them to consider what else challenged their companies and to tell us how they solved the problem. This is Part 2 of the article. Part 1 can be found here.
Joshua Crandall, founder of Clever Commute (Montclair), which we covered here, told us Superstorm Sandy turned out to be his greatest challenge of 2012. Prior to Sandy, Crandall’s greatest worry was the amazing amount of work he had because of NJ Transit’s changing schedules.
Then the storm struck. “Sandy was a touchstone for my year … as it made me really think about my business … and how I can best align my goals as an entrepreneur with the goals of the commuters.
“After Sandy hit, my business grew in three ways simultaneously: 1) existing customers used the existing service more; 2) new customers found me and started using the existing service; and 3) we added new services (e.g., bus routes … since many of the trains were not running).
“We were stretched very thin as we tried to nimbly react to the needs … but now that the dust has settled somewhat … I’m pleased with the prioritization we did.”
The storm also struck at the heart of West Orange-based Vidoovy. According to Patrick Sutherland, founder, the greatest challenge was “the disruption caused by Sandy. Besides the obvious issues involved with running a Web-based video hosting and production business with no power, we had to deal with the reality that our primary target market — municipalities and the executives who run them — was completely consumed with the storm and its aftermath.
“In addition, a big part of our marketing plan was centered on the New Jersey State League of Municipalities convention scheduled for early November in Atlantic City and cancelled due to the storm. Solving this setback is a work in progress. We are chasing down leads through our social network and looking at ad buys in websites and pubs that our target market frequently refers to. ” NJTechWeekly.com covered Vidoovy when its founder presented at the NJ Tech Meetup in May 2012.
Craig Sher is CEO of Wyckoff-based StearClear. The startup has developed software supporting a franchise organization that lets people summon drivers to take them and their car home after they’ve been out drinking. Sher responded this way:
“The biggest challenge has been building a support infrastructure for franchisee sales, training, onboarding and support. This had to be done in tandem with organically growing out the first two franchisees, which were still learning and teaching us the business. Closing this loop and merging their real requirements into software enhancements were key to building not just a sustainable franchisee but a franchisor at the same time.” NJTechWeekly.com covered StearClear after the startup received funding this year.
Kyle Marino answered for PromoVerse an e-commerce deal startup venture that we covered here in March. “For PromoVerse (Asbury), the greatest challenge we have faced was merchant and consumer engagement. In our specific startup we needed to keep our shoppers redeeming promotions daily while also keeping merchants involved and psyched about PromoVerse.”
“We had to overcome the obstacles set forth by our ages. As we are all young some merchants looked at us in the same novel way they look upon Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts selling their latest seasonal treat. After being dismissed by a few businesses we realized we needed to pivot the way we were pitching PromoVerse. As soon as merchants heard they would be featured in an app exclusive to local businesses with analytical insights they became interested. When we topped it off with the fact that it was free, they realized it was a no-brainer. Some of our most successful merchants are the ones who initially would not give us the time of day.”
“In order to keep consumers constantly engaged PromoVerse knew that new promotions and merchants were not going to be enough. To stand out from similar apps, PromoVerse gave consumers an incentive through a contest. The prize? A brand new 32” 1080p flat screen HDTV. All consumers using PromoVerse have been continuously notified through weekly newsletters complete with the full list of rules. As we near the end of the contest period we have noticed an influx of redemptions, everyone seems to want to have at least one entry to win! Though we face these challenges every day, watching merchants successfully connect with consumers through our app makes all of our hard work worth it.”
SpeechTrans (Lyndhurst) has been pointed to as one of New Jersey’s startup success stories, since it was early to market in the speech-to-speech translation app arena and its app has been widely adopted. However this year, the startup had to overcome the uncertainty brought on by a possible breakup of its major customer, Yan Auerbach, co-founder and COO told us.
“The year 2012 was both challenging and exciting for us at SpeechTrans. We were able to overcome many obstacles. For instance, one of our main customers, Hewlett-Packard (HP), was potentially disbanding into two separate groups. However, they decided to stay together.
We have learned that in the startup arena, it is critical to be patient, persistent, relaxed, and most of all optimistic. We have finally achieved the goal in which we had strived for since we launched. We believe speech- to- speech translation should be embedded on every single Internet capable device and telephone around the world. In 2012 we have accomplished this by integrating our solution into HP’s MyRoom software which is shipped with all new Windows 8 Hewlett-Packard desktops and laptops.
This is a huge accomplishment that we have worked very hard to achieve. One of the mentors we had along the way, told us to “enjoy the ride”. This is something that we have taken to heart and through all the ups and downs and tribulations we have always remembered that one day we will look back this experience and what it took to get to where we are and remember “the ride”.