By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Knoxville-based Vendor Registry was one of four companies that had their tickets punched in Atlanta Tuesday afternoon for an automatic trip to Launch Tennessee’s upcoming “36|86 Conference.”
Chris Van Beke, Vendor Registry’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), pitched the growing start-up to a group of investors during the second of three stops on the “36|86 Southern Series” tour of the southeast. After Birmingham and Atlanta, Launch Tennessee finishes the promotional and recruitment series with an event in Raleigh on April 19.
A total of 12 start-ups – three per stop – will be selected for the opportunity to compete for a top prize of $36,000 at the “36|86 Conference” set for June 6 and 7. Another 24 start-ups will join them, and the last two dozen will be announced closer to the June event.
In addition to pitches by 10 teams, the Atlanta event also featured a short presentation by Michael Cohn, Co-Founder of Cloud Sherpas, a company acquired last year by Accenture. After his exit, Cohn spent what he described as “the best year of my life travelling.”
Then, the inevitable question arose: “What’s next?” The answer was to become Managing Director of Techstars Atlanta, an announcement made late last month.
During his short presentation and Q & A session, Cohn offered some sage advice to the start-up entrepreneurs and other attendees.
“Check yourself,” he said. “Figure-out what is most important to you.”
Describing his journey with Cloud Sherpas, Cohn said the company literally grew from three people in his basement in 2008 to more than 1,100 when it was acquired in 2015.
“It was a tough time to raise capital,” he noted. “We had to build the business the old-fashioned way . . . selling our way through it.”
After 18 months, Cloud Sherpas had about 10 employees and a million dollars in annual revenues. To remain competitive in the marketplace, Cohn said the company need to get big quickly.
This reality presented him with a challenge which he asked the entrepreneurs in the room to carefully consider.
“Do you want to take the start-up all of the way or do you want to build something big,” Cohn asked? His answer for his role with Cloud Sherpas was the latter, at least in part based on a baseball analogy.
“Few starting pitchers complete all nine innings,” Cohn suggested. Instead, they go four or five innings and leave the mound to let a relief pitcher bring the win home.
Cohn says that Cloud Sherpas had several CEOs after its founding. His last role was as Senior Vice President of Marketing, growing that part of the company from a single individual to more than 60 people.
In answer to a question from an attendee, he suggested that human resources was a critical area for entrepreneurs.
“Hire slow and fire fast as best you can,” Cohn advised, adding, “Know your co-founders.”