🎙Founder Stories : Build, Launch & Exit without fundraising!

A staggering 90% of Startups fail, and 45% of them fail because there’s no need for the product. Finding a steady stream of customers interested in buying your product requires more than just a good product. 

It requires good marketing, and most of us founders suck at this. 😏 

As founders we don’t employ marketing early enough in our Startup journey. We’d rather wait until we’ve spent 12 months building the tech or $150,000 on development teams. 💳

…but there’s a 10x cheaper alternative, and Go For Vertical is that solution.

They are helping founders build their tech and go to market for as little as $2,500. Today, I’m interviewing the man behind it all, founder and CEO of Go For Vertical, Edward Cruz.

Go For Vertical helps founders deliver affordable technology and marketing infrastructure necessary to build successful Startups. This resonates with me and I’m excited to get straight into it.

…but before we get started, I’d love to connect with you!

Soooo, let’s do it follow me on twitter (DMs always open) 📨

Welcome to the Founder Stories Podcast Edward, and thank you for joining us today. I’m interested in finding out about you and your journey into entrepreneurship.

💡 How did you come up with Go For Vertical?

Hmmm so let’s see…

I’ve worked with early-stage Startups for the past decade, and I’ve always come across awesome founders with great Startup ideas. However, there was a recurring problem, many of the founders struggled to cover the costs to build out their technology and take the product to market.

So I decided I had to help these founders out. We distilled the core problem we were solving into 2 basic questions.

Two Simple Questions
1. How do we help them deliver their technology and get their Startup ready for sales 

2. How do we connect them to their target audience and do marketing without funding 

Providing a cost efficient solution to these two problems is what we know today as the Go For Vertical approach. 

💡 How are you helping Startups go to market?

We’ve adopted a hypermedia approach to helping Startups. We prioritize the delivery of a strategic prototype to help the founders perform a Risk Assumption Test. We’re not delivering the full MVP at this point.  

We can help founders get to a strategic prototype for as little as $2,500. Sometimes it veers into like the $10,000 price point, but when you compare our prices with what you would traditionally pay an agency ($150,000) you can see the value we bring in terms of minimizing initial spend.

So many Startups fail trying to do it the traditional way, we want to help Startups by using our hypermedia approach to deliver a strategic prototype and go to market.

💡 Do you help Startups build their Tech?

No we don’t do any development at all. That was a big change for us this time around. In prior roles, I had been an enterprise software consultant, I’d worked with Startups, in the trenches. Usually helping to build and deliver technology.

I made a very purposeful transition not to do the development side of things. So with our Startup, I stepped away from being a developer. I wanted to focus on creating the roadmap that would allow the work to be done efficiently. 

That was the critical piece of the puzzle that was missing, and that became our Startup’s secret sauce. That was the ah-ha moment we figured out in 2015.

💡 Tell us about one of your earlier Startup Successes “OneGreek”

OneGreek was the very first Startup we helped at Go For Vertical. When I started the organization, I met two young founders who were recent college grads from our local university. They were also fraternity brothers and they were keen on doing something in the college fraternity space to stay connected with their fraternity brothers. 

Founder Market Fit
They were both still actively involved as alums with their fraternities, and they had deep experience in this space. Their Startup OneGreek is an administrative tool to help other fraternities, and they were perfectly placed to launch such a product. 

However, they had tried a few times and they had not been successful in building their technology, in fact their most recent developer had quit halfway through delivering their 4th iteration because he was getting married and had a dream job. 

Startup Challenges
Their main developer quit about halfway through their 4th product iteration because he was getting married and he got a dream job.

“Guys I’m so sorry, but I have to take another opportunity.”

(a very familiar story to a lot of Startup founders)

They were “dead in the water”. While the developer did a great job of trying to handover, It’s just impossible to switch horses mid-stream.

Go For Vertical To The Rescue
That’s when I met them, I told them that I thought there was a way to deliver a solution from the U.S. I convinced them that it won’t rely on being restricted to a specific developer.  and it is definitely something we can do given your limited resources. 

They ended up raising a small investment round, then we went to work and made things happen.

I worked with them through our now traditional kind of process of helping build that roadmap and the print took about six weeks.

With that done they were able to hire an offshore team for 400 hours at $20 an hour, so $8,000 to deliver what was basically an Instagram clone that was a private social network for future reason stories!

Acquisition Success Story
So that is basically our very first sort of success story, they went on to  onboarding over 330,000 users onto the platform and having a successful exit. They were acquired by another startup in that same sort of fraternity and security space.  

That was our Cinderella story, helping them from Ground Zero all the way through their first product release and beyond that. We supported them and made it possible for them to launch, but I can’t take credit for their amazing growth. They did wind up being able to scale the platform and have that acquisition at the end. 

💡 Do you see No-Code as the future for Startups?

No-code is absolutely exploding these days and it aligns really nicely with what we do as well. It just gives non technical founders another way of delivering their technology quicker. 

What we do is that our focus is on products that craft amazing experiences for the audience and so the thing with no-code is that, although it opens up a lot of doors for developing technology, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to build or deliver a great product for your audience.

You still have to knock it out of the park in terms of really building something that your audience will love or really deeply care about. What I love about it is that it’s creating more opportunities for more people to hit that critical milestone of delivering their technology. That is the huge thing that we support and no-code also does that. 

💡 What’s been your biggest challenge in Startup?

I have two challenges. The first big challenge has been, how to connect with founders with deep domain knowledge (founder/market-fit) that are ready to build their prototypes.

Domain Expertise Is Important
There are a lot of founders who have come up with ideas. They have a high concept that they’re really excited about, but what’s needed beyond that enthusiasm is some actual deep domain expertise about the industry and the problem they’re trying to solve.

That’s been one of the big lessons that we’ve learned. 

We have to be able to connect with those types of founders, because they’re the ones who are going to build successful Startups that will deliver real value into a market they deeply understand. 

The second challenge is helping founders with what I call product market integration, which is a little bit different from product market fit. It’s not just like a hopeful “I would love to find product market fit.” It’s actually more of a strategic approach. This is where we have to figure out exactly where this product fits into daily life or work. 

For somebody who’s using the product, we ask the questions:

1. How are they going to adopt it? 

2. How is it going to compel them?

Having the expertise to deliver the product is one thing, but figuring out how to integrate it into your audience’s daily life network is another, and that’s a major challenge

💡 How do you find Startup founders with domain expertise?

I think there are some ways to do that. First we need to figure out where they’re at, right? Another way we found, and this may be a whole other conversation, is checking out our pool of consultants. Consultants typically have domain expertise, they’ve built a career in a particular industry and are ideally suited to becoming the right type of founders we typically look for. 

These consultants have probably never thought about using tech to enable their consultancy, or turning their service into a startup venture, but opening their minds to this as a potential opportunity was invaluable for us.

That’s the most unique or interesting channel that we’ve found for finding founders who are well qualified. They have that deep domain experience to be able to do this successfully. 

💡 What advice would you give a first-time founder?

Be prepared to sell because business is all about sales, no matter what your Startup is. That’s what makes the business world go round. 

That’s why we are here at Go For Vertical, to help early-stage founders go to market without breaking the bank.

We support founders with basic foundational marketing infrastructure like landing pages, strong branding, affordable branding to help founders create a launchpad that will prepare their Startup for sales. 

So if I were to give any advice to a founder, I’d say  “build a Startup that your customers will love, and a product they will want to pay for”.

It doesn’t happen automatically, or magically, you have to do a lot of work to make it happen. 

💡 Have you found the Startup community helpful?

Help comes in so many different forms, right? And this is one of the things I’ve discovered where we met on Twitter is that it’s an amazingly supportive community of people in the tech innovation and startup space.

It’s such an amazing online group of people that are there sharing what they’re doing. A lot of people are building in public. They are sharing their experiences, but most importantly, they are lending their support to each other. It is just absolutely huge.

A lot of founders, and I count myself as a founder of sorts, although I’ve been at it for a number of years, it’s hard to be a solo act, right? It’s hard to do this in isolation and without a sense of others sharing that journey or experience.

That to me is where I found so much value and where I think it really helps just to build upon. If anything resonated with you, reach out to me right?

I find the twitter Startup community extremely helpful and I’m always keen to talk to other Startup founders. I want to have that communication channel for people that I can help. 

💡 How are you finding Prelo, and what are you using it for?

Prelo has really opened my eyes to new ways for us to engage with an audience. There is basically the right level of information that we need to begin exploring potential startups that we might want to work with. 

It’s great to have that kind of turnkey solution that supports that part of our process. Also the fact you’re so open to feedback, wanting to hear that feedback and wanting to figure out how to incorporate feedback into your product road map, that is another super valuable thing that I find that’s rare in many cases. It’s not every startup venture or service that has that kind of open process that makes that happen.

Kudos to you guys for doing that, it is a valuable and useful product. It’s really great to see your product growing and it’s a fantastic offering so keep up the good work. 

It is an absolute pleasure to speak to you today. You need to know about going vertical. Go for vertical is helping global innovators deliver technology and build ventures without investors. 

Website: www.vertical.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CruzInTucson

On twitter : 🐤 @oluadedj
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We’ll catch up again soon, many blogs coming up

Founder, Prelo
I tweet about helping founders win!

main image provided by Photo by Robert Murray on Unsplash 🙏

main image provided by Photo by Parsa Mahmoudi on Unsplash 🙏