In a time where notable startup founders are raising millions in venture capital and producing companies that are seemingly overnight successes, there are those you haven’t heard of that are taking a more unconventional approach. This is where Mike Williams comes into the picture, who is navigating the startup ecosystem in a different way and creating an impact through the companies he’s creating at Thinkbox, a startup venture studio.
Mike has a background of being a serial entrepreneur, but told me he feels like his story really starts when he raised capital for a company in 2012 called Codeity, which was later acquired in 2015. From the moment of ensuring the acquisition was complete, he said, “I realized that I didn’t have the next big idea, but I had built an incredible team and we all had the passion to build products that would really impact people”.
This is where the concept of Thinkbox began, which has since turned into a startup venture studio that has produced companies such as Studiotime, Yoroomie App—acquired in 2016—and most recently Yobuddy App.
Instead of raising capital to get Thinkbox off the ground, Mike mentions that his small team of five started by taking on projects for cash. “This paid all of our bills and let us focus on identifying problems where we could create companies instead of worrying about money first. We did this since we chose to not go down the path of raising venture capital.” Their first company was Studiotime, which was an overnight success and has been called the “Airbnb for Music Studios”.
Today Studiotime is the largest online community of music studios and has been featured in Forbes, Hypebeast, Complex, Fader, and other publications. Mike says, “Studiotime basically validated our ability to not only do projects, but also create companies ourselves at the same time. It made us more than an agency.”
Fast forward to today and Mike and his team have also built Yoroomie App—acquired in 2016—and they just launched Yobuddy App. “We move fast and focus on what matters to us and our users. We’ve recognized that our ability to build and iterate products fast is our advantage.” I also asked Mike to cite three things he has learned and would share with others looking to build profitable companies from scratch. What he told me:
Put Process in Place
“Be process-driven so you can not only be efficient, but also replicate your successes. Most people think I am a very ad-hoc person, but there is a process to everything I do and I try to create frameworks around things.” Mike also mentions his small team is an advantage they have since they are all in-tune with the process and it’s easier for them to replicate the process from idea to company. They’ve also mastered the art of launches and scaling through creating growth frameworks.
Be Results Driven
We all know that results matter, but there has to be a measure of success. Without this, Mike says, “You can easily spread yourself too thin with various projects if you don’t focus on results and measure where your time is best spent. Context switching can be distracting, so know exactly what your goals are and constantly evaluate if and how you need to change things. Being results driven allows for this.”
Immerse Yourself in Your Respective Markets
“Know everyone that is relevant in the markets you are playing in. Competition also has purchasing power, which a few times has lead to me selling companies to them. Instead of cornering myself in direct competition against them, I spoke with them early and often so I would be on their radar. You have to master the markets you are in and know how to navigate them.”
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Jordan French is a Fast 50 and Inc. 500 serial entrepreneur. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney by education and aerospace engineer by training, French has successfully launched five different businesses ranging from 3D printing to real estate data services. Named a top “growth hacker” by CIO Magazine, French is among the most well-connected Millennials and on the leadership team at FOWNDERS, the social-impact startup accelerator based in Newark, New Jersey.