Paul Hammond – Co-founder of Startup Rounds

[quote style=”boxed”]Action! While having a vision is important, it is imperative to focus on small action oriented steps. I strongly believe in the concept of compounding interest. In other words, actions layered on top of actions will lead to a compounding result that will be far more impactful than any one stand-alone action[/quote]

Paul Hammond was born and raised on Martha’s Vineyard. After graduating from Northfield Mount Hermon, he went on to get a bachelors in Digital Media from the University of Denver. Paul is a competitive tennis player, and lover of all sports. He has worked in advertising, and with consumer goods. More recently Paul received his MBA from the #1 school in Entrepreneurship, Babson College. While getting his MBA, he also worked with CoachUp, a tech startup in Boston. About a year ago, Paul reached out to his current partner and co-founder Dan Sandland. They had grown up together, but hadn’t talked in years. After discussing the concept, together they formed Startup Rounds, offering online crowdfunding competitions, to create opportunities for entrepreneurs to 1. Find Customers, 2. Validate a product, and 3. Win Growth Capital and Resources.

Where did the idea for Startup Rounds come from? What does your typical day look like?

While going back to school for an MBA, I participated in a plethora of business contests and case competitions that offered cash prizes and resources. These opportunities were great, but they never seemed to be available prior to going back to school. It seemed like an obvious gap in the market, and I wanted to create an opportunity for non-students to participate in this kind of opportunity to get involved in competitions.

Great ideas are a dime-a-dozen, but people need help taking the next step. MassChallenge is a perfect example of a competition, and they have grown to be “the worlds largest accelerator”. Also, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have validated the reward-based crowdfunding market for people with “creative projects”. By creating the worlds first “crowdfunding accelerator”, we can democratize business competitions. Instead of needing judges, and placing the fate of many in few hands, we empower customers to be the judges, ultimately deciding with their purchases, which startups should advance through the “Rounds”. Startups can not only find customers, but they get the market validation and community (and investor) support that only a contest can create, and the winners get cash and resources that extend beyond any crowdfunding campaign.

I usually start my day by responding to a few e-mails. That way they’re not looming over my head while trying to focus on bigger tasks. The rest of the emails can wait until the end of the day. I pick 3-5 critical tasks that need to get done, and focus on completing those before tackling the less time-sensitive tasks. I usually take 2-3 scheduled meetings per day. This is important for building and maintaining relationships. After all, our ultimate goal is to facilitate community and growth.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Action! While having a vision is important, it is imperative to focus on small action oriented steps. I strongly believe in the concept of compounding interest. In other words, actions layered on top of actions will lead to a compounding result that will be far more impactful than any one stand-alone action

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Crowdfunding growth and acceptance is really cool. We’ve seen successful platforms grow over the last 6 years, but the industry in itself is still a baby, and there is still so much potential.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I am a morning person. I wake up and have a cup of coffee, and usually play a game of chess online. By 7 AM, I have already answered all the emails I missed from the day before, and I feel ready to be productive with all distractions set aside. Another easy thing that I see a lot of people fail at, including CEO’s, is to ignore social media while working.

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

Poor company culture sucks the fun out of life. I worked for a company that was more focused on cutting costs than actually improving business development. Management didn’t share any vision, and didn’t give employees any incentive. Nobody had any reason to do more than the bare minimum, and they were often discouraged from doing anything beyond their basic job description. Nobody should be defined by a job description. People can add value in a variety of ways beyond what thye are initially hired for. All employees should have the opportunity to share the company vision and be a part of the inside circle.

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

If I could do things differently, I might skip doing some of the things that didn’t work so I could save time, but in reality, you don’t know what will work and what won’t until you try. Of course hindsight is 20-20, but it’s worth doing some things that don’t work, because it’s all worthwhile when something does.

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

Keep things super simple. Even things that seem simple have a way of becoming complex. If you start with something complex, it will overwhelm you. As long as you have simple action oriented steps, you will continue to move the business forward. The second you don’t know what to do next, you’re in big trouble. Better get back to the drawing board and simplify.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Know your customer and engage with them. It has been critical for us to engage with the community, and to really understand what people want and how we can create value.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Losing a good employee can be really tough, and finding a good replacement can be even harder. We were in a position where we had to outsource work, and step up and work double-time until we were able to get back on track.

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

It’s silly, but I’ve always wanted to improve ice-cream packaging so people don’t have to get their knuckles dirty when scooping. It would be easy to create a spiral tear away package, or “push-pop” style packaging.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I love games such as Chess and Scrabble, or sports like tennis, soccer, volleyball, or skiing.

What software and web services do you use?

What software and web services don’t we use? We use CRM and payment processing services, e-mail marketing, and other web-development services.

I love when they do what they are supposed to do. They simplify our job and save us time.

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

The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson, really gave me a perspective on how day to day actions effect the outcome of your long-term goals. It was truly inspirational for me.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I’ve known David Fialkow for years. He has always had a unique outlook on life, providing a lot of energy and a positive attitude. I always appreciate how direct he is. No B.S. and straight to the point. He has been a mentor of mine for years, and I continue to use him as a sounding board. I am grateful for his friendship.


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