Co-founder and CEO of Pearl.com, a website dedicated to connecting people with professionals in hundreds of different categories, Andy Kurtzig took the stage at Vator Splash SF Thursday night to tell us the three most important things he has learned to start a business.
Unlike the prior speaker, Samir Arora, founder and CEO of Glam Media, Kurtzig waited about seven years to raise VC financing. Glam Media has raised $150 million in funding vs Pearl, which took $25 million in funding just last year. Yet Pearl is on a $100 million revenue run-rate. So it just goes to that there are many different models to build a business. And, you don't have to raise tons of VC to build a $100-million sales-generating company.
Here's Kurtzig's three lessons:
1) “Build, measure, learn”
The most important thing to do is not to apply for a patent, or write a business plan, Kurtzig said but to see if you actually have customers first!
“Figure out if customers actually want it and, if possible, see if they will actually pay for what you’re offering.”
Kurtzig’s framework for starting a business, as both a programmer and marketer,is to spend a month on each of those jobs, and then see if there is a customer out there for the product.
Pearl was actually his third idea; the other two ideas he had failed after the crucial two month period.
His first idea was for Filefund, a secondary market for files. His second idea was for company called Darester, which auctioned dares on the internet. After marketing it for a month, Kurtzig realized it wasn’t business he wanted to be in, as ideas were more crazy than playful.
Wife – pregnant, hypochondriac – build a website so she could see doctor whenever she wanted.
Pearl is now 9 ½ years year old, and it still putting out new idea every week, listening and testing to see what the customers want.
2) “Smart, fun, get things done”
Mission and values matter, Kurtzig advises. While he admits that he originally didn’t care about them, he now admits that he was wrong. It may because he spent the first two years at Pearl by himself. When you have employees, these things become important.
“Your business is about people,” he says, and values indicate why they should work with you, and they communicate what kind of people you want to be working with.
You don’t want people with different agendas, or ones that conflict too much with the ideas of the company, though you do want a unique culture.
One of Pearl’s core values is “people that were smart and fun to work with,” as well being both humble and relentless.
People we hire are successful, Kurtzig says, but that doesn’t mean that we will be successful. We have to keep trying to keep being disciplined, and always making service better.
3) Make a difference
What you want to do is make a big impact in a big impact, Kurtzig says. It is extremely important.
Pearl is really focused on making a difference and on helping people, whether they have insurance, if they have a lawyer, no matter what time it is, and no matter where they live.
You need to have a passion for how your business will impacts lives, Kurtzig said, and not just within the your business, but within the community.
Pearl is making a difference for customers and experts, including Kurtzig’s own daughter, who has had type 1 diabetes since she was a month old. Kurtzig has made it his mission to find a cure and is using business to do it, even creating an endocrinology category to help.