Everyone knows the stories of entrepreneurs and start-ups, but how often to you hear what really happens in their world. Least Asked Questions are the ones that should be asked, but few people ever do. This week, we talk to Harold Hughes, CEO and founder of Greenville-based BANDWAGON.
BANDWAGON is sports tech compnay that uses identity data and Blockchain technology to help elevate the fan experience during game day. Their mission, simply put, is to create better fan communities. From designing customizable ticket options based on fans’ needs, to curated tailgating and travel advice for away games, BANDWAGON serves as an online game day headquarters for both the casual fan and the dedicated ticket holder.
Hughes has been extremely active in the Greenville’s start-up community and is a familiar – practically always smiling – face to many. As he readies to head to Austin for six months (why, learn here), he told us the answers to some of his Least Asked Questions.
·Who is the first vendor you pay each month?
PR & marketing - The name of the game when it comes to startup is to stay alive at all costs. Building a company is hard and often times, it takes awhile to see the compounding effect of branding, marketing, and good ol' PR so I make sure to pay that bill first each month. You never know what door will finally swing open.
·What is the worst part of starting your own business?
The worst part of starting a business has definitely been the rejection. When you hear the stories of some of these successful companies like Amazon and Facebook, the stories are painted in a rose-colored "no brainer" lens. However, I can attest from experience that if your idea isn't met with some skepticism, it's likely not a big enough problem (or opportunity) to garner the attention of resources that you'll need to success. So even though the rejection or the dismisal of my ideas has been painful, I understand that it's part of the journey.
·How bad are state regulations?
Fortunately, we don't have any issues with state regulations! The State of South Carolina has put some pretty cool resources together for startups, including the South Carolina Angel Tax Credit, which allows Angel Investors who invest in these qualified businesses to receive a 35% tax credit. Definitely a great incentive to offer investors to help stimulate startup funding.
·What is the worst bill you got that you weren’t expecting?
A few years ago, an angel investor committed to invest in my company. There was fanfare and press around it so I was pretty excited. Some company reached out to me saying they had a copy of the article and our feature on the cover in a display for us. I thought this was a gift from the investor or maybe something that happens when cool stories were announced. So I proudly mounted it on the wall of our office (at the time, my home office). Turns out that it wasn't free - they make the display, send it to you, and then bill you later if you don't want to return it. To make matters worse, I never got the money from the angel investor. That was definitely a bill that I didn't expect.
·What was it like the first time you had to fire someone?
It was really difficult. The challenge was the way that we viewed the path to success for the company. I saw the future one way and they saw the future another way. For early stage startups, it's important to have everyone aligned on the same vision and the same mission to minimize friction, to enhance focus, and to increase the velocity at which you learn and succeed. To me, it was just too early to split our attention (and resources) on an unproven market. We had a conversation about a path forward but ultimately, couldn't get on the same page. It's a tough conversation to have but one of my mentors told me that the first time you think about firing someone is when you should probably do it. Human nature makes us want to give people second (and third) chances but when cash is tight and competition is fast, it's important to make sure you have the right people on the bus with you, taking the same path to the same destination.
Learn more about BANDWAGON here.