Kirk Hasenzahl - Co-Founder and CEO of RareWire

[quote style=”boxed”]If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You’ve got to go get ‘em.[/quote]

Kirk Hasenzahl, co-founder and CEO of RareWire, is a Kansas City native who has been married to his wife, Crissie, for 10+ years. He is currently living out his dream to be an entrepreneur and Little League coach for his kids, Hannah and Cole. RareWire opened its offices in January of 2011, and has created a new, industry-changing SaaS platform for developing native apps for tablets, phones and other mobile devices. Previously, Kirk was the VP of sales and business development at Saepio Technologies (a marketing technology company in Kansas City) for eight years, and was VP at Tekno Capital Ventures in Denver, Colorado, where he managed a team of 15 brokers who raised money for technology startups in the dot com boom of the 1990s. Prior to that, he had the greatest job of all time as a pitcher in the minor leagues for the Cleveland Indians.

What are you working on right now?

Launch KC, a top-secret initiative that is going to blow entrepreneurs’ minds in Kansas City. We’re also taking over the app world with the launch of our App Creation Studio. Specific apps currently in the works are one for a presidential candidate, a whole new redesign of The Atlantic (which we won two APPY awards for), and an app for National Geographic that will contain every issue ever published (going back to the 1890s).

Where did the idea for RareWire come from?

Our co-founder, Matt Angell (probably one of the top 50 developers in the country) came to me and said, “This new iSlate thing is coming out, and Flash isn’t going to work on it. I think I can build a software platform that will make it easy to create apps, without having to be a programmer,” and the rest was history.

What does your typical day look like?

Chasing down new deals, doing office management (payroll, HR, marketing, PR, etc.), chasing down more new deals, and going home. Then, I follow up on emails and chase down more new deals until about 11:00 p.m. (Australia is awake!).

How do you bring ideas to life?

The new app world is full of crazy, new creative ideas. And we get some of our own, as you can imagine. Every company says their people are the greatest. I’m sure they are, but ours are better. So what I do is come up with an idea and then go sell it to a client, which forces our guys to deliver it. On the software side, my guys love this because it gives them new, awesome stuff to build, which always gets added into our core product, therefore further enhancing our key offering. On the design side, I try not to meddle too much, because they are truly artists in that sense (including the sensitive personality type regarding their own genius work). But I get a few of my design ideas in here and there.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Enterprise apps. Not surprisingly, the app world has continued to explode, and this year has been the year that all the companies are catching up to the early adopters and building apps. We’re knee-deep in the middle of a multi-billion-dollar market.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Commercial salmon fishing. It was one of those things that was an incredible experience, yet I would never do it again. It taught me that I better use my education to get a job if I want to accomplish all the things I have in mind.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Nothing yet. It has gone well so far.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Sell. I think one thing that a lot of people overlook when they have that great idea is the sales side of things. Just like you need that rockstar developer, you also need that rockstar sales guy who can go out and generate the business for the new company. You can’t overlook that. It requires as much or more effort than anything else to jumpstart a company. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You’ve got to go get ‘em.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Raising money. When we started years ago, there weren’t a lot of options in Kansas City. That has changed a little bit with all of the new, exciting things happening around town. Once we got some traction, we talked to a number of people, and it felt like we got a cookie-cutter answer from all of them, which wasn’t a great deal for RareWire. So it kinda pissed us off and made us more determined to say “screw them” and go out and do it on our own, organically through sales growth. So we worked even harder, and that is what we continue to do, which may work out better in the end.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

We haven’t made $0.01 yet from our software that just launched in beta a few months ago. But in regards to building apps for others, we started from $0 and have grown to $1 million in revenue in our first year. We have 13 employees, have won awards, and quite frankly, can’t keep up with all of the opportunity out there. Don’t try to come up with the million dollar app idea (although, obviously, it can be done). Instead, go out and start a company and build apps for others. In the last year, $20 billion was spent on building apps.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Early education. Improve the reading efficiency of little kids. If you can do this before kids are in 3rd grade, benefits spill over and helps solve a lot of other problems in the world. As a start, we are building apps that address this issue, and are working with new programs such as Kansas City Mayor Sly James Turn the Page Initiative. On the personal side, I would like to get the Kansas City Royals back to the playoffs and World Series, and I would do this by buying the Royals once RareWire explodes.

Tell us a secret.

Launch KC Initiative.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. RareWire makes it easy for people who aren’t programmers to build robust native apps.
  2. App Figures is a great solution that easily lets you track all of your app activity, traffic, revenue, etc.
  3. Are you kidding me? It’s unbelievable.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Lean Startup. For tech startups especially, it really drives home the successful mindset you have to have when developing a technology solution. If you follow the book’s insight, it will pay off (though things will be painful sometimes).

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. @slyjames, the mayor of Kansas City, is an awesome, funny, active Tweeter who talks a lot about all of the exciting things happening in Kansas City regarding new business, technology, and how Kansas City is becoming the best city in America for entrepreneurs.
  2. @CameronCushman of Kauffman Foundation. If you are an entrepreneur, you need to know this guy. Period. No matter where you live.
  3. @nlbmprez (Negro League Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick) is an entertaining, active tweeter who knows all of Buck’s old stories that we should never forget.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

My eight-year-old son had a headache and said, “I think I have a period.” Think about that, and consider where you think he heard that!

Who is your hero?

My dad. He fought on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima (think of the movie The Pacific), and was part of the second Marine Raider Battalion (basically the first-ever special forces created for island warfare in WWII). He somehow made it through, was humble about what he achieved, and raised a great family, giving me the greatest childhood you can imagine.

What is the biggest key to success for a new startup?

Don’t think you know it all. Get people who are smarter than you involved in your company, and offer them incentives that make them want to work as hard as you do.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

People who make excuses. Quit complaining and go for it. If you have a problem, figure out the solution. Don’t waste time explaining why something can’t be done. Tell me the solution. Anything is possible if you believe it.


Kirk Hasenzahl on LinkedIn: Kirk Hasenzahl
Kirk Hasenzahl on Twitter: @hasenzahl
RareWire’s website:
Kirk Hasenzahl’s email: [email protected]