In episode seven I talk to Naruby about her experiences in the years since co-founding Ordoro, including the highs and lows of raising capital, acquiring the first customers, and hiring the right people.
A little about Naruby: Naruby is the Co-Founder and CMO of Ordoro, an order management software company, which means their software handles the the “unsexy but essential” services for eCommerce sites (shipping labels, inventory management, etc.) Before Ordoro, Naruby received her MBA at the McCombs School of Business and previously worked in financial and project management roles at Eli Lily.
- Background – Naruby is “Texolana,” meaning she’s half Venzuelan and half Texan. She moved to the US for undergrad and ended up in Austin for business school.
- Her Entrepreneurial path – In Venezuela, people who owned their own business were considered a success. Knew she wanted to do entrepreneurship when applying for business school. Started new venture classes, met her co-founders, developed the business plan while in school.
- Her co-founders – All four worked together in a new venture class, business plan competition, etc. and found that they had complimentary skill-sets and worked well together. Seven years later and they are all still there. Very little ego and a little bit of luck.
- Fundraising process – Bootstrapped for a year, no salaries. Had support of University of Texas and the Austin Technology Incubator – provided office space which was very important. Waited until they had 25 customers before seeking funds, to prove they had paying customers. First round in mid-2011. Allowed them to take salaries, CTO could work full-time, hire two employees, and secure office space.
Getting that first round of funding was exciting, but it was also kind of scary… Before, it was our own risk… There’s a weight on your shoulders that was there before but it’s augmented now that you have someone else’s money.
- Acquiring first customers without a budget – Would find people expressing pain on online forums, find their store, and cold call them. They made a lot of calls in order to find beta customers. Also started writing a blog about the relevant topics, so people found them through organic search. Decided to charge early customers because they needed to prove that people would pay for the products. The site and product have come a long way since then.
- Toughest moments –
- First year of trying to get beta customers was pretty difficult. Remembers making calls for a week and finally getting one person on the phone and within five minutes the guy wanted to end the call. Naruby is much nicer to salespeople after having had this experience!
- Going from seed to venture capital – Fundraising in Austin can be difficult, not very many VC firms. Joshua Baer from Capital Factory helped connect them to investors. At times, they wondered why VCs did not see why this was an amazing opportunity. However she didn’t question the business because they had hundreds of paying customers.
- Exciting moments –
- Getting seed capital and venture capital were exciting moments.
- But the biggest milestone and what they’re most proud of: becoming profitable in December.
- Hiring / Firing – They are picky with who they bring in and have an extensive interview process. But will still hire people who are not a good fit. With a small team it’s easy to see who will not fit. Have gotten better about making that call quicker.
No matter how extensive you make the interview process, you’re not going to know [if they’re a good fit] until a few months in.
- Interviewing – They test out hands-on work. For example, for a support role, ask them to explain how an app works, respond to a support email, present on how they would improve the product, etc. Some people don’t put in the effort, some blow our socks off. The four founders have done every job, this has helped too.
- For entrepreneurs – Do your homework to validate the market. They did the market validation work ahead of time, really understood the pain, this helped to get 25 paying customers in one year. Many entrepreneurs think you should hide your idea, but as she learned in Rob Adams’ class, you need to tell as many people about it and get as much feedback as possible. Especially the people who you’re asking to pay for your product.
- Female leaders – Being a woman in business can often be an advantage. Naruby’s style in meetings is to make it comfortable, not come in with ego, and she’s able to get more information which helps her do her job better. At the business plan competitions, she’s already seeing more women competing and more women in tech in general. Found a really amazing group of women, women@austin, who get together and talk about business (not being a woman in business).
I absolutely love being a woman in business! I think it’s an advantage… Don’t try to be a man in business … Be yourself, be open, know you’re not trying to prove yourself to anyone.