Tag: Startup Ignite

Rackspace co-founder Dirk Elmendorf’s crowd-sourced talk

Dirk Elmendorf, one of the founders of Rackspace, talks at Startup Ignite's Hack-a-thon

Rackspace co-founder Dirk Elmendorf gave a crowd-sourced talk Friday night during San Antonio Startup Ignite’s third Hack-a-thon at the Geekdom.
To start, Elmendorf went to the white board and asked the crowd of about 100 what they wanted to know. People shouted out about a dozen questions including “what was your first entrepreneurial experience, what didn’t you like about school” and “what was your biggest failure?” He wrote down their questions and then spent the next hour answering them and telling stories.
Elmendorf’s first entrepreneurial experience was with his brother selling Xeroxed space invader game sheets for a quarter.
He came from an entrepreneurial family with a lawyer dad and a mom who ran her own catering business. So he thought that was the way of the world.
Elmendorf also worked a whole summer for a company and didn’t get paid. He learned early on about the importance of contracts.
“Lesson number one write shit down and get it signed” Elmendorf said.
When he met Richard Yoo, another co-founder of Rackspace, he presented him with a four-page contract outlining the duties Elmendorf would perform.
In 1998, Yoo, Elmendorf and Pat Condon, all students at Trinity University, formed a web hosting company that became Rackspace. Graham Weston and Morris Miller met with the three later on at a burger joint and they agreed to invest in the company.
Today, Rackspace is a publicly traded company with more than 4,000 employees. Its stock, traded under the symbol RAX, closed at $44.02 share Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.
Back to his crowd-sourced talk, the thing Elmendorf didn’t like about school was it’s linear instruction.
“I can learn non-directionally all the time,” he said. “I’m a pathological learner.”
He loves Reddit and the Internet.
Someone asked him what he does when he is bored. He cooks. He once took a three-day class in meat fabrication.
What is his most important startup advice?
“It’s a team sport. It’s never just one person,” he said. “Even at the most primitive level it’s a team sport.”
It’s important to like the team you work with at a startup, Elmendorf said.
“If you don’t like them now, it’s not going to get better,” he said. “It’s like parachuting into a bad marriage.”
Elmendorf got along with Rackspace’s core team so well that he still likes them after 13 years of working together.
Also, it’s important to know what you’re good at, Elmendorf said.
“I’m not a good manager,” he said. He likes coding. “The code doesn’t get mad.”
Today, Elmendorf has a new startup, r26D, which created TruckingOffice.com, a small fleet management system. The company has 1,000 customers.
“I like projects that are targeted at small businesses,” Elmendorf said.
He advised the crowd to find a startup that customers like and are willing to pay for its products.
“You do know you can’t buy your own products,” Elmendorf said. “You need to ask yourself who is the customer and how do I serve them?”

Hacking the night away at Geekdom

Hackers gathered at Geekdom Friday night to socialize, listen to a speaker and build stuff.
About 50 people attended Start-up Ignite’s second all night Hack-a-thon in downtown San Antonio.
The event kicked off at 7 p.m. with pizza and soda and socializing, followed by a candid presentation from start-up entrepreneur Vid Luther, CEO of ZippyKid.
Luther launched ZippyKid, a wordpress hosting site, in May of 2010, with three customers. He received his first round of angel funding this past April. ZippyKid now has more than 1,000 customers and Luther’s hired four employees.
ZippyKid just turned profitable, Luther said.
Luther told the crowd that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing when he started the company. In fact, he just did it as a hobby at first. He helped people with their WordPress sites during his spare time, while working a full time job for Pear Analytics. But he soon realized the value in providing personalized service to people who have WordPress blogs.
“I could charge $100 to fix a problem that took me five minutes to fix,” Luther said.
Some larger hosting sites didn’t always have time to provide the best help to non-technical WordPress bloggers, and that’s where Luther found his opportunity.
Luther encouraged the crowd to try their own ventures. He tried several other ventures and had some great ideas that didn’t pan out before he found success with ZippyKid. He attracted his angel funding through a blog post he did explaining his vision for the site.
ZippyKid competes with other WordPress specialization sites like WPEngine in Austin. But ZippyKid focuses on non-technical customers, Luther said. Since launching, ZippyKid has lost only 11 customers and half of those went out of business, Luther said.
Following Luther’s talk, the crowd dispersed and began working on their laptops in small groups.
Stephen Young, Igor Gregorio and Daniel Semmens created Start-up Ignite because they wanted to work with other like-minded people.
San Antonio lacked a catalyst to bring together its technology community, Gregorio said.
“We heard that there were more and more people in San Antonio doing start-ups but none of them were connected,” Young said.
A few people came from Houston and Austin to attend the event, Semmens said
“The focus is on getting things done and helping people,” Semmens said.
Building a strong community of people working on start-ups only helps make the existing start-ups stronger, said Young.
Young and Gregorio travelled to San Francisco earlier this year and when they hopped in a cab, the cab driver asked them if they ran a start-up and asked them for their pitch. Then he gave them his pitch. They want to see that pervasive entrepreneurial spirit in San Antonio, Young said.
“It’s possible,” he said
The next Start-up Ignite Hack-a-thon is Dec. 9th and features Dirk Elmendorf, co-founder of Rackspace, as its guest speaker. They have 100 people on the Start-up Ignite mailing list and they’re hoping to attract even more as word of mouth about the events spread, Semmens said.
“Bring what you have and come and work around like minded people,” he said.
Niyolab CEO Toyin Akinmusuru travelled from Austin for the event. He’s also co-founder of HubAustin, a co-working space on South Congress Avenue. He was seeking feedback on his new venture, Niyobooks, an online customized children’s book site for families.
“This is the perfect environment for people to come and get feedback,” said Gregorio.
Dan Stuckey attended 3 Day Startup last weekend and learned about Startup Ignite’s Hack-a-thon there. So he showed up Friday night to work on a new idea.
“This is the perfect place to meet people who code,” Stuckey said. “Coders are like the golden Unicorns. They’re hard to find.”
Tim Peters, president of MartFlash.com, an e-commerce site, that he plans to launch within 18 months, attended the event to look for talent for his new venture.
“The next step is putting together a team,” he said. He’s looking for 5 people and he found some potential employees at the event.

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