This interview with entrepreneur Ryan Draving, Founder of CompeteLeap, took place in August, 2012. Cheap Revolution founder Skip Shuda and Ryan worked together previously together at Philly Marketing Labs, a digital marketing agency.
Cheap Revolution: When was your business founded?
Ryan: CompeteLeap was founded in November of 2011, and our co-founders went full-time in May 2012.
Cheap Revolution: Who is your Audience and What is your Value Proposition?
Ryan: Our audience is the local small business community. Currently, we’re focusing on dentists and lawyers in order to see how our product will work for very small establishments and to get our name out to these two industries. We make any small business owner, employee, or intern into an instant internet marketing specialist by building them a website from scratch. Our step-by-step video training courses provide a clear set of actions for a complete path to successfully engage on social media, get visitors from Google, gain visibility on other blogs and websites, and turn website visitors into paying customers. Our powerful reports show your progress so you understand exactly what to do next. For doctors, we build a complete online booking system into your website, complete with an email and text reminder system.
Our suite helps you to connect with your customers so they'll buy, tell others about you, and come back again and again.
Cheap Revolution: Tell us about your team.
Ryan: The CompeteLeap team is really a second family for me. We have over 20 team members who focus on recruiting, fundraising, video creation, web development, and marketing. Coming into work every day is a blast - being surrounded with this kind of energy and innovation is an entrepreneur's dream.
This summer we had a great group of interns that really helped to get CompeteLeap rolling and some of them have joined our team. The best way to find great interns is through local university job boards. Almost every good school has a job board right on their website, and most are free for posting internships.
We also have a set of advisers with deep experience and broad connections in the industry. They tell it like it is - even when it hurts. They have been essential in refining our concept to solve a critical market need.
Cheap Revolution: What business building tools have helped you build your business "on the Cheap"? Name 1-3 of your favorites along the results you've seen from them?
Ryan: We have two favorites that everyone in the office loves. The first is Streak, which is a CRM that has helped CompeteLeap keep on top of our relationships with prospective customers and investors. It can be integrated into any Gmail account. Nothing could be sweeter than a CRM built into my Gmail. One less subscription to manage - and it's free. We all share Streak, and have used it to help bring in several new team members and to connect with investors in the area.
The second is SlideRocket; it’s similar to PowerPoint, but with more powerful graphic design tools - kind of a cloud-hosted mash-up of Photoshop + PowerPoint. It makes it easier for us to create and share our information, like our pitch deck, easily to investors and to new members.
Speaking of investors - I just read Venture Deals by Brad Feld, and it's a brilliant book that helps level the playing field between entrepreneurs and investors. Definitely worth a read for those seeking funding.
Cheap Revolution: What are your biggest lessons learned from building your business thus far?
Ryan: Two critical factors: a revolutionary product requires continual refinement as you test your assumptions (as seen in the Lean Startup). Don’t be afraid to make a mistake - as Paul Graham has said, if you're not embarrassed by your first public beta, you took too long to launch. Customers tell us what works and doesn't - so we don't have to waste time on programming a product based on untested assumptions.
We’ve changed almost everything about CompeteLeap since we started last November: our services, our target audience, even our name. Along the way, we’ve been sidetracked by so many wonderful ideas and several problems that have come up. Thankfully, we've settled in on a core offering and are dedicating 100% of our time to developing that - no distractions. It solves the critical small business need of customer acquisition and retention - and our customers love it.
Cheap Revolution: Please share your vision of tomorrow - and how your business fits in.
Ryan: Well, we all realize how important the Internet and connecting online has become. CompeteLeap helps small businesses sort through all of the hassle associated with finding customers over the web as well as bring their product or service to the forefront of their industries.
Cheap Revolution: It sounds like CompeteLeap provides terrific value for small businesses. They can focus on their business while you focus on finding them customers. Thank you for sharing your story, Ryan!