Bradley is a self-proclaimed laid-back geek that likes to build cool stuff for the web. His newest startup is Skyrise, which is a communications and concierge platform for office buildings. He is also a managing partner at Velocis. Velocis is a hybrid design/development agency and incubator that partners with startups (such as Visage Payroll and Student Success Agency) to bring their ideas to life. Last but not least, Bradley is the founder of Launch DFW, a website dedicated to the Dallas startup scene, events and more.
Who are your ideal clients?
Skyrise customers are typically large commercial real estate ownership or property management companies that have 1 or more office buildings that are 100,000 square feet or larger. While we can service a much larger range of customers, our product resonates the most with this group.
Is this your first business?
Skyrise is technically the 4th official company that I’ve started and the 10th (if I remember right!) internet-based product I’ve created.
What is the biggest reason for your success so far?
Well, I’m hesitant to claim much success at this point as I still have a long way to go. That being said, I have “survived” 8 years now as an entrepreneur running my own businesses which, I suppose, is a decent accomplishment in itself. I would say the biggest contributor to this “success” is my dogged persistence to make it happen. On all my social media profiles my bio typically starts with “100% Hustle” and I feel that really exemplifies how I approach business. I am also ok with taking huge risks and I welcome the challenge. I see a lot of “entrepreneurs” out there who aren’t all in on their businesses, and it shows. I am all in.
What were the earliest indications that this business could be successful?
Before starting to build the Skyrise platform, we spent a solid 2 months doing market and customer validation. We talked to every possible type of potential user and stakeholder that we could get a meeting with. Once we had 4 customer letter of intents based just on our mockups and pitch, we knew we were on to something.
What position did you hire first?
The first hire after the founding team was business development. We are building Skyrise as a sales-driven, sales-focused organization. With previous startups, I learned a lot of lessons the hard way by putting product and technology ahead of sales. While you certainly can’t discount those things, startups typically don’t die early due to product/technology issues. They absolutely will die early if they can’t sell. I think a lot of founders overlook this reality.
What is working best for your marketing right now?
Surprisingly (and not so surprisingly given our market), traditional PR is driving a lot of results for us right now. The fact is our customers read a lot of traditional media and industry publications. It’s also a time when the industry is hungry for innovative solutions and interesting stories.
What is your biggest differentiator?
I think our biggest differentiator is empathy. It may sound contrived, but we’ve made a very concerted effort to really understand all of the stakeholders that interact with our platform. We spent the time to really understand their unique challenges that they confront on a daily basis, from their perspective, not from our assumptions about them. In so many of our competitor’s products, it’s clear that they built a solution to a problem, not a tool that a real person is going to use to solve their challenges.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
A startup is really just a series of really hard decisions, so highlighting just one is a challenge itself. I would have to say one of the most consistently difficult decisions I have to make on a regular basis is choosing to resist the urge/desire to continue building product/features just because we can. It’s so easy to get distracted with “stuff” just because you have the ability to build it.
If it was possible, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
I would tell myself to really spend the time to seek out amazing partners, both on the business side of things and personally/romantically. Startups are insanely hard. I’ve had experiences both with amazing partners and not so amazing partners. There is nothing to me that is more important in a startup than having the unconditional support of both my business partners and in my case, my wife. Once you find those people, do everything thing in your power to keep them around.
How did you meet your co-founders or business partners?
In the case of Skyrise, it’s a bit crazy! I met my co-founder, Andrew, originally through Angel List, when I was hiring for my other company (Velocis - a web/mobile product development shop). Andrew was living in Israel at the time and moved to Dallas to join my team. When we spun Skyrise out of that business, he became co-founder of Skyrise. Nathan recently joined the team to lead business development. While I had known of Nathan and his business exploits previously, Andrew actually met him first on a Lyft ride of all places! Ask us for that story if you ever meet us in person.
Do you ever use coworking spaces?
I feel like an old man when it comes to coworking. I think I’ve been a member at all of the Dallas-area coworking spaces at one time or another, or at least the original ones that laid a lot of the ground work here. The spaces that really have things figured out, like Common Desk, are amazing. If you’re a freelancer or small company, chances are you SHOULD be in a coworking space.
What book are you most likely to give as a gift?
Just Listen, by Dr. Mark Goulston. It’s an amazing book that has really shaped how I interact with people. I think empathy is the single most important thing we can have as human beings, and it also happens to be a powerful tool.
Favorite place to travel to?
Peru, hands down. It’s a special place to me for a lot of reasons, first of which it’s where I met my incredible wife. It’s such an incredibly diverse and magical country and the people, food and landscapes are simply amazing.
What is the best small business in your neighborhood?
I would have to say Jonathan’s Oak Cliff. The food is amazing!
Do you have a favorite freelancer you have worked with?
I’ve worked with a lot of freelancers over the course of the years and the best ones have high integrity and do what they say they are going to do. Justin Noel has worked with me on a couple things, Skyrise included, and he definitely exemplifies these qualities.
What is your favorite app or online tool?
Oh man, this is a tough one… I’d have to say right now my favorite app is Polymail. I absolutely HATE the Gmail web interface with a passion, so I’m constantly on the lookout for great email apps. What I really love about Polymail is that it combines what I loved about Mailbox (RIP!) with open tracking built right into the application.
What was the best event that you recently attended?
Frankly, I’ve been avoiding a lot of events lately because I find most are not well done and a waste of valuable time. It is too easy for startup founders to get distracted by events that make them feel like they doing valuable things when in fact they are simply doing nothing.
How did you finance your business?
A lot of hard work. I am personally the biggest investor in Skyrise and it was a long, hard road to be able to get to the position where I could do that. We’ve also raised a small amount of outside capital from some great investors.
What business would you love for someone else to start?
There should be a business around identifying or predicting which people are likely to cancel your scheduled meeting at the last minute. Nothing irks me more than people throwing my entire day out of whack by canceling meetings at the last minute!
What advice do you have for new founders?
Don’t do it. Quit right now. Go get a job. If you’re still grinding and hustling to make your startup happen after 6 months, come find me for the advice.