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Lokalite was founded in May 2010 by 3 Colorado University graduates who eat, drink, and play at the same places you do. They wanted to share the love.
Lokalite is a hyperlocal event curation and aggregation platform that is changing the way people discover new and exciting things to do.
MO: What influenced you to start a new company 2 days after graduating college? Did you have any concerns that you weren’t really prepared to undertake such a massive endeavor?
Will: I think becoming an entrepreneur and starting a company is partly a function of my generation. I truly believe that my generation has seen the prospects of following in previous generations’ footsteps and the prospects aren’t promising. Working 50+ hours a week behind a cubicle for 30+ years is the farthest thing from fulfilling. We’re in an enlightened period where people realize that life, and time specifically, is a precious commodity. Why waste 1/3 of your life being another brick in the wall? Why not take a risk to become or do something great with your time; it isn’t as if that desk job won’t be there if you fail.
I think the team and I had every concern you could imagine having started your first company. Will people like our product? How are we going to build our product? How are we going to feed ourselves for the next however long it takes to get up and running? Are we even qualified to start a company? However, I think part of being an entrepreneur and starting a company is being an eternal optimist, grounded in realism of course. We just knew that whatever challenge came our way; we just needed to take a breath, attack it head on, and we would overcome it. Needless to say, this has been the single greatest learning experience of my life.
MO: What did you and your business partners study and how have your combined experiences and knowledge contributed to the development of the company?
Will: I would say that we don’t have the most orthodox team you would expect from a technology startup. Myself and another partner (Lauren Costantini) studied Finance and Entrepreneurship at CU-Boulder, and our other partner (Graham Christy) studied Civil Engineering. We’ve also worked with fantastic local developers to help supplement our initial lack of technical know-how, which has given Graham and I time to increase our technical foundation/skills. When it comes to forming a team, I wouldn’t say that background plays as big a role as some would expect, although it definitely helps. I think the determining factor that matters most is the founders’ ability to adapt to changing situation and the team dynamic. If the team has a strong cohesiveness and is filled with intelligent, self-starters, there isn’t much a team like that couldn’t accomplish with some runway and support.
Because of our initial lack of technical know-how, Graham and I made a conscious effort to learn as much as possible when it came to the coding. Graham focuses more on learning backend development since he already had a computer science foundation and I’ve devoted my time to learning more frontend development. Since Graham’s time is mostly devoted to the development of the site and mine split between development and operations, Lauren has been invaluable to the operations of Lokalite. Her ability to simplify complex tasks and the perspective she has brought to every decision in moving Lokalite forward has contributed greatly to our current success. Although we may need help from time to time with the more challenging aspects of what we want to accomplish, we’ve definitely come a long way.
MO: Aside from funding what’s your biggest barrier to success right now?
Will: Our biggest barrier to success would have to be scaling. When you’re talking about hyperlocal events, it requires a lot of manpower because you can’t provide the quality/quantity of content without having the feet on the street. Then the question becomes, by competing in such a cost intensive industry, can you derive enough value to make it worth your and investors’ while? It’s definitely one of the toughest nuts to crack; however, the team and I feel we are on a path towards a business model that will scale hyperlocal in an efficient and meaningful way.
MO: How did you manage to raise $400,000 to get the company started?
Will: We were able to raise funding the only way any other first time entrepreneur would be able, passion and a fair amount of luck. The last semester of our senior year, we were fortunate enough to take a business plan writing course through the CU-Boulder Leeds School of Business, which was a huge stepping stone in gaining access to industry professionals and investors. Besides leveraging our existing networks, we made a strong effort to expand our networks. People within the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Boulder couldn’t have been nicer in giving us the time of day to help us out with advice or connecting us to individuals who they thought may be helpful. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
MO: If I could grant you one business related wish right now, what would you ask for?
Will: If I could have any wish, I would ask for there to be more Ruby developers in Boulder that want to join startups. There are so many talented developers in Boulder but the market is saturated with so many amazing startups that developers don’t have to “settle down.” They can make a great living and have the flexibility most people strive for in their careers by becoming contractors. They could also just start their own company. Did I mention we’re currently in the market for a Ruby developer?
MO: What’s your marketing strategy been so far? How have you been getting the word about Lokalite out there?
Will: Our initial strategy dealt with more guerrilla types of marketing campaigns. We worked with local venues to bring music and after parties to their location. We were also on the ground everyday handing out stuff to potential users (e.g. shirts). As we’ve learned and gathered feedback from previous campaigns, we’ve decided to move our strategy more towards low cost/high impact forms of marketing. A great example would be doing interviews like this or any other of our press releases we’ve had written. We’ve also looking to some of the more technical aspects of marketing that our within our control like SEO.
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