Picture this. A 40-year-old, lifelong Iowan is in New York City, sitting in the lobby of theFacebook/AOL headquarters. He’s there to rehearse a business pitch. For a tech startup that has been his every waking moment for a year. I had to shake my head wondering how I get myself into these things.
But before long, the Iowan in me took over and I found myself giving directions to the hip tech employees looking for the “Sullivan room.”
And that’s how HowFactory’s journey to the stage of TechCrunch Disrupt NYC goes – though it started (as most things do): a little dream, some hard work, and a bit of hustle.
Nicole sent a text to Kenny and me that TechCrunch was accepting applications for hot startups making cool stuff. You know, the Startup Battlefield featured in the show Silicon Valley? Where Dropbox got their start? There were a few conversations about it being a distraction, and the probability being so low that an Iowa company could get in. We were a little mixed on whether to bother or not. In typical Nicole fashion, she just submitted the application. Had she not, I never would have been in that lobby. See? Hustle.
In the history of the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, roughly 500 companies have been chosen for the Startup Battlefield. These companies include Mint, Dropbox, Trello, Fitbit, and now HowFactory. Combined, Battlefield companies have raised over $4 billion, and many Startup Battlefield entrepreneurs have had successful exits. To say that we are in good company? Understatement. We’re always proud that – with Nicole as one of our cofounders, an important recognition of her work with us from very early on (#snuggleit) – we also have the honor of being one of just 31 companies with a female cofounder to hit the Battlefield stage.
When we were accepted to the Battlefield, we were both nervous and excited to tell everyone. But we had to keep it a secret – rules of the game.
When the big day finally happened, we were amazed by the support from Iowa’s startup community. In the Cedar Valley, Trevor Carlson hosted a watch party for our pitch. At theIowa Startup Accelerator (HowFactory’s home for 3 months last fall), Sarah Binder and Eric Engelmann gathered up folks to watch. Built by Iowa, one of our early investors, showed their love for HowFactory by watching in Iowa City.
So when Kenny, Nicole, and I took the stage, we really didn’t feel like we were alone. We knew that our team back in Iowa (Dave, Alyx, and Angie!) plus all of the mentors, colleagues, and Friends of HowFactory had our backs.
We put on a good show, made the documentation of processes “sexy,” and were relieved that everything went so well.
What has followed has been a rocket-ship. 1000% increase in traffic to our website. Hundreds of new sign-ups for a beta. Sales calls to Australia, Buffalo, NY, and everywhere in between. We had an in-depth conversation about pricing with Susan Paley, the former CEO of Beats Music (yeah, I know!). And oh the venture capitalists. We’re always happy to see our friends in funding.
We have had a blast on the national scene. But it’s more than just a good time, it’s a real reminder of the national movement to make, build, disrupt, and innovate that’s going on nation-wide, and going strong here in the Midwest (#midwestisbest, you know). Thank you friends, for all of your help, and let’s enjoy it while we #buildhere.