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Chris Maurice (standing) has seen Yellow Card Financial blossom as an international cryptocurrency agency.
“Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. If you truly want to see your business or product succeed, it needs to be your whole life. If you’re truly passionate about what you’re building – don’t ever stop building – no matter how many people tell you to.””
The Harbert College is dedicated to effectively supporting student and alumni efforts to explore, define, and achieve their career aspirations. Sometimes, aspirations include creating their own business or developing a new product. We salute our Auburn Entrepreneurs!
What do a robotic tennis ball collector, a conduit for cryptocurrency exchange, and a software service that streamlines the construction payment process have in common? Not only are these ideas growing and successful startups competing in today’s marketplace, but they are products of Auburn University’s Entrepreneurship program. This program, an entrepreneurial ecosystem, prides itself on the development and student startups, either participating in the annual Tiger Cage Business Pitch Competition or part of the program’s summer Incubator and Accelerator series.
Tennibot, created by engineering and Harbert College MBA recipient Haitham Eletrabi, Yellow Card Financial, founded by finance graduate Chris Maurice, and Flashtract, co-founded by engineering alums Blair Chenault and Ben Conry, have elevated their pitches and products far beyond student competitions at the university level.
How did they appeal to investors? What were the ingredients for success? How did they handle the risk? What about overcoming failure?
Flashtract captured the 2019 Tiger Cage Business Pitch Competition and secured $50,000 by winning the Alabama Auburn Regional Launchpad competition.
“Appealing to investors is tricky, because every one of them is different,” said Chenault, Flashtract Team Lead. “It is similar to dating. What one person likes, the next person will hate. The best way to appeal to them boils down to … are you going to make them money? You can tell them you will make them money all day long, but they want to see proof.”
Blair Chenault, Flashtract
Where can a startup find proof? Chenault said to not only have a huge market to draw from, but also already own a slice of the market. “You also need to be confident,” he said. “You know your company better than anyone else. Don’t be afraid of hard questions because you probably know the answer to them already.”
Scott McGlon, Entrepreneur-in-Residence and one of Flashtract’s advisors, said, “I couldn’t be prouder of what Team Flashtract has been able to accomplish over the last year. They possess what every successful startup must have – a strong synergistic team with an unrelentless work ethic, self-confidence, and a no matter what attitude. What they lack in experience, they compensate for with their willingness to learn. I certainly would not bet against them at this point!”
Maurice, who’s three-year old Bitcoin-based business completed $12 million in transactions in just the first 60 days of 2020, stressed the importance of selling yourself first.
“Never approach an investor without an introduction unless it’s absolutely impossible,” said Maurice. “You get one shot to sell yourself, so it’s much easier when you have someone they trust vouching for you.”
McGlon goes on to say, “Chris’ approach to his business is a great testament to persistence. He heard the word “no” a lot…and I mean a lot! He’s truly proven to me that he clearly understands what “no matter what” means with his consistent determination. He believed in his business model and steadily hit the streets selling himself and his approach to the cryptocurrency world.”
Eletrabi’s robotic tennis ball collector has earned the favor of several large tennis organizations, including Har-Tru and Holabird Sports, and has earned favorable press coverage in Forbes, the Los Angeles Times and BBC. How does Eletrabi, whose company that launched in 2013, earned $210,000 in orders from a crowdfunding campaign in just 14 hours, suggest appealing to investors?
“Passion, knowledge and stamina,” he said. “There several three things that investors typically look for in entrepreneurs. How passionate is the idea? Will the entrepreneur stick to it when things are tough? Why is the entrepreneur the best person to build the startup? What previous knowledge or experience does the entrepreneur have in this space?
Haitham Eletrabi, Tennibot
“But if you don’t have that passion, you wouldn’t want to work on that idea/startup for five to 10 years on average. If you don’t have the knowledge, you wouldn’t be able to make progress and keep going. If you don’t have the stamina, you won’t be able to survive the many downs that you will face along the way.”
Chenault and Maurice offered multiple ingredients to startup success. Interestingly, Maurice pointed to “telling your story.”
“That’s one big thing that’s gotten us to where we are today,” he said. “People care significantly more about you than they do about your idea. Tell your story and convince people that you will be successful even if your company is not.”
Chenault believes the keys to success include forming a solid team, adaptability, and the ability to sell.
Then there’s failure. It’s inevitable.
“But failure can be a good thing as long as you take time to reflect on your mistakes and make sure that you do not repeat them,” Chenault added. “The ability to recover is a part of adaptability.”
Maurice said entrepreneurs should never be afraid to fail. “Just make sure that you fail quickly so you can learn, adapt, and try again,” he said. “A quick failure is one of the best things that can happen to your and it will save you countless hours. Don’t quit. But even more than that, don’t plan for failure. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy. If you truly want to see your business or product succeed, it needs to be your whole life. If you’re truly passionate about what you’re building – don’t ever stop building – no matter how many people tell you to.”
Eletrabi considered failure as a “speed bump along the way to success.”
“Every business startup goes through ups and downs,” he said. “It is the downs that truly challenge the entrepreneurs and test their conviction and persistence.”
For further information on these Auburn startups, visit:
Flashtract for construction billing software at https://www.flashtract.com/
Yellow Card to purchase Bitcoin with bank transfer and cash at https://www.yellowcard.io/blog/how-to-deposit-funds-with-bank-transfer-and-cash/
Tennibot for inquiries about a tennis ball collector at https://tennibot.com/