Karen Bantuveris

Uploaded by weareaustintech on 15.01.2013


I was the accidental entrepreneur
and so I didn't exactly choose to locate my company in Austin
I was in Austin when I chose to become an entrepreneur
and VolunteerSpot was started out of my personal frustration of reply-all email
flooding my blackberry as a working mom
and so I decided to fix that problem by creating this this online coordination
tool and in doing so um... I ended up
um... the CEO of a tech company.
Now, I don't think I could have done that in any city other than Austin
because what's phenomenal about Austin is how accessible mentors are, how
accessible resources are... I was able to learn how to launch a tech company in Austin
because I was located here.
With more than two million users and growing we are the leading online coordination
tool, making it easy for people everywhere to join together and make a
difference in their local communities and schools.
And what's so fun about VolunteerSpot is we've grown almost entirely organically,
because what we do is we help people um... whether it's uh...
room mom or PTA parent or a teen parent or someone working for a
non-profit or working for their faith group
organize together and make it easy to sign up, schedule, and fundraise with
the people that are trying to do their good work.
So we quickly pollinate, once we get into a community, we quickly spread because
it's the most influential people in those communities who are doing all the
organizing and that's how we've been growing and growing. In our peak season
we add about fifty thousand users a week
on which is really exciting and we've done it on a really minuscule marking
What makes VolunteerSpot successful and very interesting is
our ability to collect the most affluent, influential women in every community in
America and they come to VolunteerSpot, and they come back year after year and they
bring their friends.
So we are intensely viral and that's what brands are interested
in that want to reach this community and so if we like to say we're
a sheep in sheep's clothing: not only do we reach these women, we make their lives
easier, and we're able brands to the table um... that that wanna connect
with these women in a very high engaged manner.
I think the biggest advice I have for up-and-coming tech entrepreneurs is to ask
lots of questions. Every start-up is different, every community is different,
every customer base is different.
So um... get out there and talk to as many people who have either worked in
like industries
uh... with similar products or unlike industries with similar products and
find out what you can learn from them, what mistakes
did they encounter, talk to people who are on the boards of various companies and
see what you can learn that can help you be successful,
and to try to find advisors and partners that can bring insights and perspectives
to your business
that's different than um... what you bring to the table.
As an entrepreneur, if you're getting ready to raise money i would highly
encourage you to talk to other entrepreneurs who have raised money. Find out
how they did it, look at their decks, look at the kinds of questions they were
and I would start talking and having informal conversations with investors,
letting them know you're going to be raising money soon.
And start your pitch. start the conversation and understand what kinds
of questions do they have,
because the more informal conversations you can have the more you can start
preparing for your formal pitch and your formal deck
and you'll be able to overcome some of the objections they have
or you'll be able to tell them that special sauce makes your company, that
that, in those conversations you're gonna see what's interesting to them. And so I
can't think encourage entrepreneurs enoug enough to go early, go often
just let them know: I'm not fund raising yet,
but I'm going to be soon let me get some feedback from you. The fun thing
about that is several people that we had those early conversations with came
into our deal because they got to see
we did everything we said we were going to do and we were able to take their
feedback and wrap it into the company uh... and build out
the pieces we needed to set up for success.
One of the benefits of Austin is
people here will answer questions for you, they're very forthcoming in uh... in
what's working for them, what best practices work for them. Lots people are
willing to participate with you on a um... an early stage basis so um...
and that's again I don't think i could started VolunteerSpot in another place
The magic of Austin
is the magic of people's willingness to partner and try and mentor each other.