Startup Grind DC's fall agenda kicked off with a strong start by hosting Scott Case, former CTO of Priceline.com and CEO of Startup America Partnership, at 1776. Scott was incredibly eager and funny from the start, quickly launching into the chat by explaining how his first taste of entrepreneurship began with cutting grass in Greenwich, Connecticut, and molding a landscaping business around that. This is where Scott believes that he realized the reality and hardships of starting a business, and went on from there.
Startups are not for the faint of the heart.
Regarding work/life balance in and around the workplace, Scott states that being an entrepreneur is "not for the faint of the heart." You can have a good morning one minute, a horrible afternoon, and a great evening all on the same day; that is the nature of startups. By surrounding yourself with a good team of people, Scott agrees that it can help sustain a growing business. According to Scott, it's the person behind it all that truly matters, for if a startup fails, "it's not you that failed, but the startup."
Scott explored the meaning of "success" during this chat, which proved to be really interesting. Plenty of founders have aspirations of creating the next Facebook and becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg, but defining success as such can be stressful. When Scott joined the Priceline team at the young age of 26 with a baby on the way, his expectations of success were not about making it big but making it by.
Join other founders who have already proven themselves.
According to Scott, Priceline was an offspring out of Walker Digital after Scott and his team approached Jay Walker with the idea of starting the company. He learned to find another great founder and figured out to 'carry his bags' because you will learn so much more and faster. After a year of being formed, the company went public as it quickly grew to become one of the most used travel booking websites ever. The years following the IPO were interesting for Scott, for naturally running a public company is vastly different than running a startup, especially when a lot of the founding team had already left to start other projects. Even for Scott his time came to leave, and he embarked on new ventures himself.
After leaving Priceline, Scott explored the field which he calls "big market, low margin," trying to find the next big idea that would yield high success. Scott ran a non-profit, Malaria No More, and eventually connected with Steve and Jean Case and the Case Foundation, focusing on America's economy, job growth and helping entrepreneurs in our nation, or as Scott calls them, "hereos of the economy."
Use Up Global if you are a startup entrepreneur.
Scott traveled the nation visiting different startup ecosystems and figuring out what resources and aid each entrepreneur environment needed to grow jobs and create local and national success. Scott noticed that when these communities were "less dense and less connected" it was harder to grow, therefore Scott spent these years developing and sustaining startup communities across the country. By merging with organizations like Startup Weekend and Startup Digest to form Up Global, startups should now use it as a platform to connect and assist entrepreneurs across various levels of need. Entrepreneurs wanting to find a cofounder or try out an idea on a weekend or figure out a go-to-market strategy of your existing idea, Up Global is not a bad place to start.
Test your startup story with the network of people around you.
Scott went on to disprove some "startup myths" by touching upon raising capital, building products, etc. Scott thinks that one must "build a network of people around your product" to make it successful, and to constantly "make adjustments to your [startup] story" by testing it and making changes based on feedback. Scott also disagrees that if "you build it, the money will come," for great products can be easily overlooked without the proper network, marketing and sales techniques.
Scott believes being an entrepreneur takes many different facets in order to be successful, and that comes with the responsibility of learning from other founders while being judicious and acting on your own accord and instinct. Nothing is black and white when forming a business, but it's wise to balance keeping an open mind while having a fixed goal or intention in your actions.
"Our (startup) affliction in DC and many other startup communities is we don't think big enough"
Scott finished up by saying that in DC, entrepreneurs do not think "big enough" with "game changing" ideas. While he agrees the DC startup scene is certainly developing and has massive potential for national impact, he urges DC startup founders to challenge each other to think bigger and work backwards on the smaller ideas to test, and to create that network around them that resonates with their idea. The time you spent on working on smaller problems, you could have spent the same amount of time working on bigger problems. It's better to fail and learn from the bigger idea than the smaller ones.
Scott's favorite superhero is Tony Stark (Ironman), since he's truly an inventor, all about "building stuff," and is definitely the most entrepreneurial of all of the superheroes.
WRITTEN BY: Cedric Craig, Community Manager