Recently we got to catch up with Andrea Lo, Ceo/cofounder of Piggybackr. During our interview she introduces us to Piggybackr and shares with us some lessons from the early stages of starting her company. Piggybackr is and Angelpad Spring 2012 company from San Francisco.
Tell us what your company is all about.
Piggybackr is the “kickstarter for kids.” We teach young people how to bring their offline fundraisers online so they can raise more money for their teams, schools, and communities in a more effective, educational, and fun way!
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
I was inspired by my then 11-year-old sister who wanted to raise money by selling bracelets for $1. I thought…”why isn’t she doing this online?”
Can you walk us through some of the early stages of starting Piggybackr?
I initially started the company without a technical co-founder so I had to do everything I could to validate my idea without building the product. The first version of Piggybackr, was a sketch on construction paper. I went around talking to strangers and asking them for feedback. Only after a couple iterations, did it evolve to prototypes on the computer. It was only after I had gotten the user experience flow down and positive feedback that we really started building out the entire website.
How’d you gain traction initially?
We pounded the pavement to get our first customers. Once we had a few initial successes, people started telling each other about us. We also signed on some large organizations that reached a lot of youth.
You’re part of Angelpad, how have they helped you? Why Angelpad?
Angelpad was an amazing experience. It brought my company to whole other level and has helped me build a lasting network of down to earth mentors and founders who have willingly helped me every step of the way. I chose Angelpad because I liked the people who started it and because it was small and focused (they only accepts only 10-12 companies per batch). The mentors are accessible, hands-on, and genuinely care about every company in the portfolio.
Any do’s or don’ts you’d recommend for those trying to get funding?
Introductions really matter. Start out by getting other entrepreneurs to introduce you to their investors or mentors who know you well enough to introduce you to their contacts. Always be pitching your company – you never know who you’ll meet or who you’ll be introduced to. Don’t talk to investors until you’re ready to pitch them – you oftentimes only get one chance to present your company. Don’t take “no’s” personally. Investors are trained to find reasons to say “no.” Be confident, passionate, and don’t give up!
Did you beta test? How so and how do you feel it affected your relationship with those who were testing it?
Beta testing is a critical part of building a product. No matter what stage you are in the company, there are going to be people who love your product, and people who will find fault with it. You have to get over that, and be ready to put an incomplete product out there, get feedback, and act on that feedback quickly. We made sure to always communicate with our earliest users, and be quick to recognize and own up to any mistakes and errors that were made.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur looking to get their company into Angelpad?
All the regular stuff: validate your idea as much as possible. Have unique insights about how you’re going to solve the problem and know your industry and competitors in and out. Line up customers before you build out your product too much. Make sure you have a strong team, big market, and good idea. And network as best you can to get their attention.
What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?
Don’t write one. What you should be doing instead is going out there and talking to customers, testing your assumptions, and validating that you’re actually doing something would pay for. Try to line up your first couple customers before you even build anything.
What progress do you hope to make in the next year?
We want to reach every young person in the nation, continue to grow quickly, and help youth successfully raise money and realize they can do things to help themselves and their communities.
A massive thank you to Andrea Lo for taking the time out of her busy schedule to put down some awesome answers to our questions. We look forward to catching back up with Piggybackr next year to see how things are going. You can also follow them on twitter!
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