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Josh Ledgard

Sometimes it is just a little tough to make the entrepreneurial leap. KickoffLabs wants to helps those dabbling on the edge take the full plunge.

“Our goal is to make it easier for individuals to take those first steps towards independence by validating their ideas and making those first customer connections,” says co-founder Josh Ledgard, who co-founded KickoffLabs with Scott Watermasysk earlier this year.

Ledgard started KickoffLabs in his Sammamish “garage” after nine years at Microsoft and four at Telligent, and he shared his thoughts with GeekWire about his new company.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We make it crazy simple to create your business’ first web site and build a customer list. We know it’s simple since our parents were able to do it.”

Inspiration hit us when: “We had 10 cool startup ideas but no way to know which idea was the best. What we needed was a way to easily publish 10 landing pages in order to see which one would get more customer interest over the span of a couple of months. There is a lot involved when you start trying to publish one of these pages. And the idea for KickoffLabs was born.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrapped. We’re fortunate to be in a position that we can afford to run lean for a while without taking on additional cash, our wives are very understanding, and we’ve seen first-hand what taking on VC money can do to a business.”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We understand the value of combining multiple related tools for users under a single unified interface. This was a key differentiator at our previous employer. With KickoffLabs it’s the combination of being able to build a web presence and customer engagement into one simple interface for small businesses. Most businesses have no need to fuss with complex CMS software, worry about hosting, or pay developers to create a crappy flash based experience for their customers. Our customers have a real business to run, software to build, and products to sell. We’re only going to keep making it easier to get up and running and support them until they reach their goals.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Recognizing that neither Scott nor I are great graphic designers and finding a great local designer to work with us on the initial site designs.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Ironically we should have connected more with the people that were signing up through our own products landing page. We built our own landing page with KickoffLabs, but we should have been working on building tighter relationships with people that signed up and could help us spread the word sooner and build an even better 1.0.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “It’s a tough call between Jobs’ ability to create a unified end-to-end experience for his customers and Gates’ ability to review, analyze, and adapt his products to meet the needs of a much broader market. I’m bias, having seen that ability when I was leading teams at Microsoft while Gates was still around. In the end I’d rather have Jobs in my corner because I know he’d keep yelling gently suggesting that something wasn’t good enough to ship until it truly shined. When you’re just starting out its difficult knowing when something is ready and everyone needs to channel their inner Jobs and telling themselves that it could be better until it is.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “Customers aren’t thinking about our product… except to recommend it to their peers. People are successfully marketing their ideas and business online with our tools and can focus more of their energy on building their own business.”

Rivals should fear us because: “We’ve both led product teams that shipped world class web software in use by millions of people today. We both have hungry children that need to go to college. We both have an aversion to working for other people. So we’re in it to win.”

We are truly unique because: “The market of simple individual/micro-business web products is dominated by four players today that are ripe for disruption:

–Hosting providers and registrars like GoDaddy that offer a less than compelling experience.

–Independent contractors that overcharge for building businesses terrible web sites.

–People that waste time trying to fit a square peg like WordPress into a round hole. It’s just too much for most people these days.

–Mailing list providers whose offerings are tailored towards businesses with over 10,000 list members.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Yet to come. Getting the word out about what we’re doing and building an audience for each launch. There are days when it feels like your product could print dollar bills for customers, but if no one sees it.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Get off the sidelines and start sooner. Start building your product sooner and if you are building a product already… stop… start building an audience. Start on the side if you have to. It takes longer than you think it will to go from idea to a good execution. It takes even longer to build an audience for what you are doing.”

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