Rely on everyone you know. Too often entrepreneurs try to do everything by themselves because they think they know it all or to keep it a secret or for some other reason.
Brent Shafer is co-founder and CEO of Vuevent, an event discovery platform based in Austin, Texas. Vuevent takes the pain out of finding events, making recommendations based on users’ interests, location, friends, time and other criteria. In 2016, Vuevent closed its seed funding round, which totals $1.1 million.
Where did the idea for Vuevent come from?
Sitting in a dorm at Whitworth University, Jimmy and I couldn’t figure out what was going on campus because all they had was an HTML calendar that was never updated. We thought it would be really cool if every time you opened an app, events that fit your interests were recommended to you so that you never had to search for an event again.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I typically arrive in the office around 9, and start the day with a team meeting. Basically, what everyone has going on, any new developments, blocks, etc. It is a great way for everyone to get on the same page, from all parts of the company. I work between China and India in the morning and then am usually on calls or meetings the rest of the afternoon. In the evening, I work between our teams abroad, again, as their day is just starting.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We have a fantastic team that is highly collaborative and creative. Features flow between the partners, developers, business development and design. However, the base all starts with what we see and hear from the people that use and/or work with our platform. We are always working together through many iterations to create a feature or product that the people who use Vuevent will love.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The growing number of people becoming more active and going to live events. We live in an increasingly virtual world, but people are getting out and experiencing events or local activities more than ever.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think writing things down, immediately. I’m always coming up with new ideas and writing them down is super important so I don’t lose it. Also, sticking to a routine as much as possible.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Mowing yards. There was nothing high tech about it and where I grew up the temperature would get to 115 degrees. Mowing 5 yards a day in that was not fun, but I did learn a lot about the reward of hard work and the importance of planning and strategizing even on things that don’t seem to need strategy.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
There are a million things I would do differently. If I had to choose one, though, it would be to stay very focused on one objective or goal. Sometimes, especially early on when your product is forming, it is easy to get distracted. Although, learning from the people who use and interact with your product is super important. So it’s also good to be agile and iterative. It’s just understanding the fine line.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Rely on everyone you know. Too often entrepreneurs try to do everything by themselves because they think they know it all or to keep it a secret or for some other reason. The problem is that you can’t do it all by yourself or just with your team. Finding people you trust to help, advise, consult, or just give their independent opinion is extraordinarily valuable and everyone is surrounded by people who can help them.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Looking for areas of the market or new markets where no one is doing it successfully. For example, we are launching Vuevent Compass. Compass enables event hosts of all types to create an affordable, reliable, and feature-packed app that is hosted on the Vuevent app. We saw that the custom apps in the industry were incredibly expensive, hard to create and manage, and honestly were terrible apps most of the time. Vuevent was founded on the idea that no one in the event industry was effectively recommending events on a personal basis — everyone was focused on ticketing and registration. We look for the gaps in the market and fill them with really cool features.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We failed launching a product that was an add on to the Vuevent experience which would have connected Vuevent users with event supporters. We kept adding features and complexity to it to the point it was impossible to bring to market. I learned that starting small with a product to test it and get it off the ground before adding all the bells and whistles is a much more efficient and effective way to get an idea to market.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Not a chance! I have a few ideas for the future up my sleeve, but they’re too sacred to give away.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Edible Arrangements for one of Vuevent’s partners. Being a young company, or any sized company, partnerships and the individuals or businesses you work with are critical to your success and making sure they know how important they are to Vuevent is something we take very serious.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use Slack, eShares, Gusto, and Jira. They are all incredible products. Slack has made us a more dynamic and collaborative team, especially when someone is out of the office. eShares makes our investors lives easier, which makes our lives easier. Gusto is the best payroll and HR solution on the market, and pretty cheap too! And Jira allows our dev team to work efficiently and quickly, in two week sprints!
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“How to Be A Star At Work” by Robert Kelley. It sounds simple and like a boring read, but it really challenges you to examine whether or not you are being the best individual, in the office and outside of it, that you can be. It helps you think through what you do and what “stars” do to align yourself with those that create a meaningful impact on the entire group, not just individually.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I love Brian Chesky’s stories about launching Airbnb. Awhile ago, he published an article on Medium about all the investors that turned him down, and all the struggles with getting the company off the ground. Even the biggest and most influential companies have had humble beginnings.