For most startups, success means higher user acquisition and the ability to attract top talent. For Brandon Pearce at Relativity Space, it means being able to one day 3D print and launch a rocket to Mars.
But success doesn't happen overnight. Or as Pearce said, “We can’t cross the finish line until everyone is at the finish line.”
To be recognized as an up-and-comer in the startup world requires key ingredients: a creative and disruptive business idea; capital via funding or bootstrapping; and a significant (and growing) customer base — along with a motivated team driving the company mission forward.
In part one of a two-part series, we spoke to seven leaders about the inception of their tech companies, how they’ve grown and their plans for scaling.
What They Do: Relativity Space uses robotics, software and metal 3D printing to manufacture aerospace material. Their process cuts down the quantity of robotic parts needed in traditional construction and allows for rockets to be built in days instead of years. Their long-term goal is to print and launch the first 3D rocket to Mars.
How They Got Here: “I think Relativity Space is where it is primarily because we looked at the trend of additive manufacturing technology and took it to its logical conclusion,” said Vice President of Avionics and Integrated Software Brandon Pearce. “Large-scale 3D metallic printing was going to happen and it was a question of who was going to do it first. The other insight was recognizing that rockets have a very high price to raw material cost to help offset the costs of developing the technology. Once you can print a rocket, what can’t you print?”
Once you can print a rocket, what can’t you print?”
How They're Growing: “Growth for our company is going to be focused on hiring experts in both rocketry and additive manufacturing to continue to flesh out the capabilities of our team. A key aspect of our hiring is to make sure the teams are keeping pace with each other. We can’t cross the finish line until everyone is at the finish line,” Pearce added.
What They Do: Mythical Games is a game technology studio that gives gamers true ownership of digital assets. After raising $19 million in November 2019, Mythical Games is preparing to launch its first flagship game.
How They Got Here: Jeff Poffenbarger, COO, said, “Mythical Games started as a shared belief in blockchain technology and how it enabled in-game economies for player ownership in video games at scale. With a kernel of an idea, rapid iteration and prototyping, we secured our initial seed and Series A funding that allowed us to hire the right resources to begin turning prototypes into reality and bringing game designs to life.”
He added: “After securing our completed Series A, the team is now poised to finish developing our proprietary blockchain platform and our first flagship game, “Blankos Block Party.” Growth for us will be building a strong, healthy organization, securing partnerships for licensing and distribution, and fostering our player base.”
With a kernel of an idea, rapid iteration and prototyping, we secured our initial seed and Series A funding.”
How They're Growing: “From my perspective, growth next year will be measured by our ability to successfully overcome the challenges we’ll surely face as we develop our platform and game,” said Poffenbarger. “It will also be measured by our partnerships, player base and community. Personally, I’m excited for us to put the pieces in place that will help us to scale as a healthy organization that puts its employees first.”
What They Do: The aim of Zwift’s app is to make training and fitness fun. It’s multiplayer video game technology caters to and connects the running, cycling and fitness communities. In 2019, Zwift was named “The Fifth Most Innovative Company in Sport” by Fast Company.
How They Got Here: “Two elements have been key to Zwift’s success. First, Zwift has understood and met the needs of a large community of cyclists around the world. We’ve gamified their training experience and helped them organize rides. In return they have become huge fans and the sales force for our brand,” said Eric Min, CEO.
He added: “Second, we made the decision to vertically integrate the cycling industry. From partnering with hardware brands, we’ve aggregated more than 1.5 million accounts in over 170 countries. And from partnering with major event owners and cycling brands, we’ve amplified our visibility far beyond what we could have afforded and in a super credible manner.”
Zwift has understood and met the needs of a large community of cyclists around the world.”
How They’re Growing: “Not only are we developing new features and new worlds for our core audiences of cyclists and triathletes, but we are also expanding our offer to new categories and new sports,” said Min. “We just introduced training plans specific to the off-road cycling audience. We launched our eSports division a few months ago, and we announced recently that next year we will host the first-ever Cycling Esports World Championships sanctioned by the UCI.”
What They Do: First Resonance is seeking to accelerate the manufacturing process with its intelligence platform, ion. Ion will help new-generation hardware companies improve communication, products and processes. Its software, cloud and computing capabilities will allow manufacturing companies to deliver hardware quickly and reliably.
How They Got Here: “We got here because we are all extremely passionate about the problems we are solving in the manufacturing industry,” said Karan Talati, co-founder and CEO. “Much of our team has felt the pain of working at large hardware companies that are subject to communication gaps and bureaucratic systems. We are committed to radically shifting the way things are done. Because we’re still a small team and the problem we’re taking on is so large, we will only succeed by working with people who do not back down from challenges and inspire those around them to push forward.”
Over the next year, we are going to take on tougher challenges and grow our footprint in factories.”
How They're Growing: “We are going into 2020 with our first handful of customers and we are committed to making them successful,” said Talati. “Over the next year, we are going to take on tougher challenges and grow our footprint in factories across the country. We’re going to be working on tough technical challenges, ranging from IoT connectivity on the factory floor to machine learning-powered anomaly detection in the supply chain. We’re excited to take on big technical challenges while providing meaningful value to hardware engineers.”
What They Do: Sure’s mobile app lets consumers purchase and manage their own insurance plan. In return, they partner with insurance companies to manage sales, help launch new markets and modernize systems. After successfully raising $12.5 million in the Series B round last June, Sure is looking to grow its team.
How They Got Here: “As we have scaled our enterprise solution, we have taken a quality over quantity approach with customers. Meaning, we have placed an emphasis on making our enterprise customers successful and putting them in a position to grow their insurance businesses,” said Chief Revenue Officer Nate Kinet. “With each new customer launch, we have learned and refined our processes to get better for the next one.”
As we have scaled our enterprise solution, we have taken a quality over quantity approach with customers.”
How They're Growing: “The primary focus will be to continue to launch and support digital insurance programs with global insurance carriers and leading consumer brands. To support this, we anticipate headcount to grow steadily throughout the year across all areas of our business,” said Kinet.
What They Do: Lucky Day is reimagining the lottery by letting users play through their app. By watching ads or answering surveys, users earn tokens that can be exchanged for scratch-offs, which, with luck, can turn into a cash payout. Lucky Day is a “top 10” free app on Google Store and has over 10 million downloads.
How They Got Here: “We built a team of talented people and executed on a series of winning ideas. The outcome was growth at an incredible pace that outperformed our expectations. It’s the kind of success all startups hope for,” said Joshua Javaheri, founder and CEO. Success in the next step of our journey depends on our ability to find the right people to take us there without putting our culture at risk. We’re protective of that because it’s how we’ve inspired new ideas at all levels of the company.”
Success in the next step of our journey depends on our ability to find the right people to take us there without putting our culture at risk.”
How They're Growing: “In the coming year, we expect our teams to grow even faster as we introduce new products, build new features into our more mature products and optimize for growth and scale. Teams will work closely together to zero in on their objectives. We’re very excited to continue nurturing our culture of thoughtful discourse and entrepreneurial spirit as we build our internal team,” said Javaheri.
What They Do: Endpoint’s digital platform aims to make the home-buying experience transparent for all parties involved. It is a title and escrow company that streamlines the home closing process and offers more convenient signing, secure fund transfers and in-home notarization.
How They Got Here: “Back in 2017, we started seeing a wave of investment and technology adoption on the front end of the real estate transaction, fueled by $10 billion in VC capital and targeted at solving key industry frictions,” said Scott Martino, CEO. “However, many of those frictions occur not at the front end of the real estate transaction, but after a home buyer has been found, specifically during the over-30-day escrow period, when mortgage and title companies do their work. We saw a possible $90-billion annual revenue opportunity to rapidly innovate the closing transaction. By pairing First American Financial Corporation’s 130 years of title and escrow expertise with startup talent at BCG Digital Ventures, we developed Endpoint to realize this opportunity.”
Our most recent round of funding will be focused on strengthening a robust back-end infrastructure.”
How They're Growing: “We just closed a new round of investment from First American and are excited to move into our next phase of growth. Our seed round in 2018 was focused on the front-end customer experience with buyers, sellers and their real estate agents, proving initial product-market fit in our first market in Washington,” said Martino.
He added: “Our most recent round of funding will be focused on strengthening a robust back-end infrastructure and implementing standardization across different regions. This will enable us to build a foundation from which we can continue to expand in 2021 and beyond.”