We had a great time at last week’s Startup Day event, listening to inspirational talks by the likes of SquareHub founder Dave Cotter; former drugstore.com CEO Dawn Lepore; Moz CEO Rand Fishkin and Contour founder Marc Barros. (Links go to their talks, and we’ll be posting more on GeekWire in the coming days).
But one of the coolest things we added this year was the Startup Demo Zone, a special area where 11 startup companies got the opportunity to meet individually with venture capitalists and showcase their offerings to the crowd.
Three of those companies got the opportunity to pitch on-stage to our VC panel, and just one walked away with bragging rights, not to mention a $1,000 personal check from Ignition’s Frank Artale.
AtomOrbit beat out GraphDat and BookTrope in the Hughes Media Law Group Elevator Pitch competition, and I’ve got to say this is the first time I’ve watched an entrepreneur pitch his company in a lab coat with pipe in hand. (See video above).
It was a solid pitch from Seth Talbott, as the 37-year-old entrepreneur described how they plan to help businesses access legacy data on mobile devices. The investors were impressed with Talbott’s short three-minute pitch.
“Enterprise mobile is a pretty big deal, and there is not a business of any size out there today that isn’t trying to deploy their existing applications and existing data to their users via mobile technologies,” said Artale. “This is a company that is on to something in solving an acute need. Can it get there fast and really go after it?”
Angel investor Rudy Gadre agreed. “If it can be done, awesome. But there is a lot of work to make that happen,” he said.
Now, let’s here more about AtomOrbit in a special Startup Day edition of GeekWire’s Startup Spotlight.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We make software that provides mobile a workspace where you can access your old legacy data that’s been sitting in the server room for a decade right alongside your cloud data like SalesForce, SAP and SharePoint. TeamFusion is a single place to go to get to the critical business data that you need to use to get your job done.”
Inspiration hit us when: “We had been working hard to find the right feature balance in providing a killer mobile experience for legacy data and huge business systems like SalesForce, SAP and a few others, but without appearing to be awkwardly replicating the entire existing desktop experience. We eventually realized that most business users are connecting into these huge platforms and only doing a limited number of things, over and over again. There was an obvious 80/20 balance right in front of us and we had missed it. We didn’t need to replicate the whole native desktop interface but we could provide a sexy mobile experience for the most common and most needed functions for a platform and through that provide huge value by bringing all of those different separated systems into unified and seamless mobile experience.
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We have been bootstrapped up to this point and have landed paid customs like Microsoft and Juniper Networks, but we are just now kicking off our fund raising to scale the business. We have an active pipeline but we need greater resources to take advantage of the unique opportunity that we have created for ourselves.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “We originally had about 20 different things that we wanted to build into the platform but we got some great feedback early in on the process to focus, focus, focus. We ended up stripping down our feature set, finding our core and staying focused on being the best solution for the Bring your own Device problem in the Enterprise. That focus was pure gold.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “We pitched a couple of times before we had our messaging down solid. We ended up making a mess of the pitch and wasted a lot of time that we would like to have back. The feedback was incredibly valuable but the process took too long and we really weren’t ready.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Gates, no question. I am a Seattle guy and Bill Gates has done more for the Seattle area than can be realistically measured. I grew up just down the street from Microsoft’s Redmond campus and I have always rooted for their success. Also, I think that I would get along the best with Gates, but I cannot explain why.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “We are really going to start dominating when we have our upcoming SaaS platform completed. We have huge disruption potential when we have our next platform version in the marketplace. Enterprise users are tired of terrible user experiences and having to bounce all over the place to use different business systems to get their jobs done. We have a solution that resonates with users and a future-facing technology that CIO’s love because it will actually work in 5 years unlike solutions built around native mobile apps.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We provide an incredible mobile user experience for numerous software systems and we have a platform that enterprise partners overwhelmingly prefer compared to closed proprietary systems. We are really focused on providing a robust solution that makes it much easier to deploy immersive and engaging mobile experiences and it looks like our competitors largely forgot the design and engagement piece of the equation. The days of ugly enterprise software are coming to an end and solutions that are ugly aren’t going to sell very well.”
We are truly unique because: Nearly all of our competitors have made the huge mistake of trying to unify data from different business systems by delivering it to the mobile device through a proprietary native app instead of using HTML5 in the browser. I am stunned and baffled by this. First off, developers are sick and tired of working in closed proprietary systems when robust open technologies are available. Second, our partners and Fortune 1000 customers aren’t interested in throwing millions more into closed systems with proprietary apps that have limited functionality and debatable security implications. Why would a company invest into a closed platform that provides no meaningful security improvement and limits what software solutions can be developed within the platform?”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “We worked really hard to make our platform look and feel like a native app but do it all with HTML5 inside the browser. It took forever, but it was worth it. The browser is the app platform of the future because it is device agnostic and HTML5 is finally to a point where we can meet the demands of the Enterprise without painful compromises. I really do think that the days of Enterprise native apps are coming to an end. Do we really think that CIO’s like this technology merry-go-round? Gee, lets solve our “handcuffed to the PC problem” by creating a whole new generation of mobile apps that are tied to a specific operating system. Seriously? Native apps for Android and iOS are a ridiculous solution to this problem because CIO’s know that they have a short lifespan and aren’t going to work in a few years without expensive support and upgrades.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Build a rounded team. I read recently that each startup needs a hustler, a hacker and a hipster, the 3 H’s. You need to make sure that you have stakeholders in the company that tackle a unique and critical piece that moves the company forward. Skill overlap is dangerous and a luxury that you cannot afford in small and unpaid startup situations. It is hard to hire out or give small equity stakes to people that are indispensable for moving you forward as an organization. We are lucky to have a balanced team and I am grateful for a business partner in Wes that I trust like a brother and who is brilliant and totally different in perspective and personality.”
Startup Spotlight is an occasional look at a Pacific Northwest startup company. Have an interesting new venture you want spotlighted in GeekWire? Fill out this questionnaire in a fun and engaging style that shows off your startup’s culture. (Remember to upload photos). Past profiles can be found here.