Having a family isn’t a reason to not have a startup. If you have a good idea, along with the support of your family and the passion to take your idea somewhere, you should definitely do it.
Andy Kallenbach is the founder of FormZapper, an online forms management software solution. FormZapper is eco-friendly and solves paper problems by making it easy for companies to put their forms online, fill them out, store them, and share them with others.
Andy is known as a tech expert in Kansas City. A natural with code, he’s been programming since the age of seven and hasn’t paused since. He has used his tech skills in the insurance and IT industry for more than 15 years, creating solutions for thousands. Also, Andy is active in the Kansas City startup and business community, lending a hand in the grassroots effort to expand Kansas City’s tech community and helping other startups with technical solutions.
While Andy claims to wear a propeller hat at work, he takes it off to be a great husband, as well as a great dad to his one-year-old son.
What are you working on right now?
FormZapper! We make it easy for you to put your forms online, fill them out, store them, and share them with others. We do the paperwork so you don’t have to. We are a pretty new venture, so it is all-hands-on-deck for sales, marketing and product development. We have an awesome core group of people who make work fun while we are changing the world of forms.
Where did the idea for FormZapper come from?
I got the initial idea for FormZapper in December of 2010 when I started a local IT support business, SaberCo. One of my clients had two large rooms full of file cabinets filled with new employee paperwork. With a turnover of 1,600 employees per year, the effort of mailing, filing and storing five years of forms (to meet the legal retention requirement) became something of a full time job, costing them well over $50,000 yearly. While there are existing solutions in the marketplace today, none of them are affordable enough to replace the cost of paper for a small business. Providing an affordable online form, security, storage and workflow system for small- and medium-sized businesses is a compelling solution that is simply not being provided.
What does your typical day look like?
Non-stop. Three days out of the week, I take my one-year-old son to Broadway Cafe to sit outside, converse with friends and watch the cars go by before going to work. He gets a sippy cup, I get the coffee, and we share a muffin. In the mornings, Danielle and I spend some time improving our marketing and usually preparing for a meeting with a new or existing customer. From 11:00 to 2:00, we get in the car and go make some people excited about forms. Our afternoons typically involve figuring out to-do stuff, handling priorities and getting some items crossed off our list. I usually get some nights and weekends for development and improvement of our product.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Lots of coffee leads to lots of code, which leads to lots of cool stuff.
I am a developer by trade so most of my ideas are software related. Because of my IT background, I am able to know what needs to happen to bring my ideas to life. Through the cutting-edge start up communities in Kansas City, UMKC Entrepreneurship program, Kauffman, KC NEXT, teKC, Venture Fridays and geek night, I have been able to collaborate with talented individuals who are passionate about our ideas. But nothing brings reality and life to your idea like seeing it help someone else.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Dude, new customers every week is exciting. I am excited about moving into the health professional space. Also, in terms of a general industry trend, I am excited about tablet/mobile devices being used more by businesses to help them be more efficient and not tied to desks. Our forms already work on the iPad, so I can totally see us becoming a clipboard form replacement too.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Lawn mowing. It was my first business venture when I was 13. It was hard work and I had to do everything from knocking on doors to signing up new customers to mowing in the heat. I would walk several miles while dragging my lawnmower, a giant thing of water, and a gas can for $20. I learned to work fast, more efficiently. I also learned that a labor-constrained business would be difficult to scale.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Spend less time talking to investors and more time developing a solution and talking to customers. We had a unique opportunity, because I had the means to develop a solution, good partners, potential customers, and good business mentors to provide us direction.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Get more people to help you. Find people who get excited about things, and don’t always look for people in the startup crowd. Everyone has ideas, and many people can get excited enough about an opportunity to take on the risk with you.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
While working on the forms business, I also ran a local Kansas City software development and helpdesk firm with a couple employees. While I thought this was to my benefit to generate some income, I found it extremely difficult to extract myself from the day-to-day operations to dedicate any time to the forms business. I had at least four failed attempts at replacing myself there. Also, I had to find replacement developers for several long-term software projects I was working on, and had to get those replacements up to speed. This has finally settled down, and I did find someone to manage the day-to-day helpdesk operations, so I am crossing my fingers that this is done.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A year ago I toyed around with this “Cardbook” idea for a greeting card Facebook app that would automatically send someone a real greeting card in the mail. It would have to include your signature, which you could capture with a smartphone camera. The key to this is that it would be automatic (not a reminder!), so you would never forget to send your mom or grandma the very best in the mail. I can’t count how many times my wife and I have forgotten to send somebody a birthday card in the mail.
Starting this business in Kansas City could be the perfect opportunity to partner with Hallmark to send quality cards, maybe with giftcards or random items from a curated list of gifts that any mom would love.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Nothing. Forcing a change on the world would make it less genuine. Free will and the random beauty of our world provides us with business opportunities and experiences that we wouldn’t have if the chaos was directed in any way.
Tell us a secret.
My life in another dimension would involve singing a Johnny Cash song on the Grand Ole Opry.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Arstechnica. I have followed this news site since the late ’90s, and they have a good forum community and the best tech articles.
- MailChimp. Everyone needs a monkey to send their mail with style.
- Wikipedia. I love and loathe this site because I could read it forever, non-stop, maybe without food.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Peopleware. It is an old book, but it is a pretty timeless discussion on software development, people and project management. There is definite skill to project and team management, and every tech startup founder needs this expertise to create a product.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @SiliconPrairie highlights and supports entrepreneurs and creatives on the Silicon Prairie.
- @Mockcrunch, because they are funny and from Kansas City!
- @1millioncups is a Kauffman initiative to help create local communities of entrepreneurs.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Two weeks ago, a bunch of us geeks went down to the Lake of the Ozarks for a weekend of fun, without sunscreen. Monday was painful but funny.
Who is your hero?
My wife. She saves me from startup insanity daily.
What’s with the robot, and why is he so angry?
Fact: paperwork doesn’t make people smiley. The robot is trying to tackle a ton of paperwork and is less than pleased because of it. We like the robot because he’s fun and fits with our quirky, cool look and feel. Also, robots work for us because they communicate some of our brand values, such as efficiency, power and tech-savviness.
What is it like to have a start-up and a baby at the same time?
A lot of people questioned the plausibility of me starting a company while expecting my first child. But, looking back, it’s actually really kept me motivated. My business matters to more people than just me now, and the need to take care of my family has pushed me to not slack off and work hard instead. Having a family isn’t a reason to not have a startup. If you have a good idea, along with the support of your family and the passion to take your idea somewhere, you should definitely do it.
Andy Kallenbach on LinkedIn: Andy Kallenbach
FormZapper on Twitter: @FormZapper
FormZapper on Facebook: FormZapper
Andy Kallenbach on Facebook: Andy Kallenbach
FormZapper’s website: www.formzapper.com