Todd Spaits, the 37-year-old founder and CEO of SkyFu, wants to help restaurant owners stay on top of the chatter. In addition to monitoring reviews, the site allows owners to update all of their social media properties (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) in a few clicks.
“SkyFu listens to the social Web while you sleep,” the company says in a promotional video. Hosting a beta release party next week at Tom Douglas’s Palace Ballroom, SkyFu certainly is entering a hot (and crowded) market. In recent weeks, we’ve covered social media firms such as Venuelabs, ReadyPulse and others which also help small businesses measure the pulse of what’s being said about them on social media channels.
We chatted with Spaits — who holds a MBA from the University of Washington and plans to move the company to the new SURF Incubator in Seattle — in the latest installment of Startup Spotlight to find out how SkyFu is different.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We help businesses that realize the power of social media, but don’t have the resources to handle it, do so easily, quickly and for a low cost.”
Inspiration hit us when: “I have several friends who own small businesses — restaurants mostly — and while they weren’t tech un-savvy, for the most part these were not businesses where you sat in front of your computer all day. Essentially they were faced with the daunting task of dealing with their customers as faces and as usernames. Boom! I thought that they needed a low-cost, simple, easy way to make those two processes as similar as possible and it simply wasn’t being addressed for the little guy.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We intend to bootstrap to our first sale with angels up to bat right after that. Why? Because the founders believed in the idea enough to commit enough resources to it to get to a revenue position and we believe that proves the model to a point where we can ask others to believe in it as well. I feel confident now asking other people to invest in what is now a business not just an idea.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our secret sauce is our core vision, which is to make the experience of dealing with our clients customers online mimic the experience of dealing them real world. That is the North Star that guides SkyFu and I think is the holy grail of social media and reputation management overall.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Focusing on one business segment, the restaurant space, vs. targeting all small and midsized companies. I think each segment has particular needs and you need to understand one group first before moving on to the next. We will let our competitors try a one size fits all approach. ”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We started as a UW MBA group and we faced many challenges transitioning from that communal organization to a nimble start-up. In hindsight, I would have done many things differently.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Steve Job hands down. Because Jobs understood how to pivot a tech company and had corporate entrepreneurship down to a science. With him in my corner we would be ensured to build the first SkyFu product to perfection and be ready to jump into the next opportunity. It’s like doing start-up after start-up under the same brand. That would be fun.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “When SkyFu services our second industry on the national scale. Once we can do that, I believe we truly have a strong brand and be THE social media solution for the non-enterprise company.”
Rivals should fear us because: “Because I believe SkyFu will connect directly with our clients better than our competition. I believe we understand the pain better and will become a brand that our clients identify with. I think our competitors are solving the problems of a vision rather than a reality.”
We are truly unique because: “Because of the people involved. We have MBA’s , but that doesn’t make us unique we have successful entrepreneurs and we aren’t the first there either. We more than enough experience in all the core areas. But this team hasn’t done a start-up ever and I would go to battle with this team anytime. We have what it takes and that is us.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Developing a solid product on a bootstrapped budget and staying within that budget. We had a lot of DYI moments over the last year, but they will pay off.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “You need to contract a case of amnesia every day. The entrepreneurial process is messy and in each case it is messy for a different reason. Each day you need to wake up and hit the ground running no matter how challenging or rewarding the previous day was.”