Day 4 was a very relaxing day. We met up with the group around 9:30 AM and headed over Tignis Inc., to meet with the CEO, Jon Herlocker. Jon is an old business associate of Brad. This was the smallest company we have visited so far, with only 6 employees on board, which was drastically different then visiting Amazon, who has over a hundred thousand employees. This was also possibly my favorite visit of our trip so far because it felt like such a genuine experience. Jon started his talk by going over his history and how he got to the place he was in today. He started off working as a professor at the university of Oregon, where he was able to get several grants, including one from the NSA, to continue research into machine learning. From there, Jon touched briefly on his time at VMware, which is a billion dollar company and his dislikes of working in a place like this. From there Jon talked about his first start up company, which he sold after 1 month.
This got the conversation rolling about how to get money for when you have a startup. I found this topic to be very interesting, since I really had no background knowledge in this area. So when Jon started talking about getting venture capitalists, I was intrigued. He explained that venture capitalists were companies that collected money from businesses and wealthy people, to invest in startup companies, where they are usually guaranteed preferred stock and a seat on the board. He talked about his experience talking to venture capitalists and attempting to get funding for his different startups. He explained that many venture capitalists will only invest in you if you have previous successful startup experience. This made it difficult for him to gain initial investments into his startups. Then he explained what angel investors are and how he was able to find success there. Angel investors are wealthy individuals that are looking to invest in startups. This is slightly different than venture capitalists, since it is an individual investing in a startup compared to a company. Venture capitalists are also usually able to offer more money than angel investors. So when Jon was seeking original funding for his first startup, when he approached an angel investor, the investor offered to buy the company on the spot, which is a very rare occurrence. His second start up has successfully gained funding and is now in the growing stage.
We were able to talk to 3 of his employees, who were all recent college graduates and seeking jobs. Jon then left the room so the employees were free to speak there mind on working at a small startup. It was very interesting hearing all their opinions of what they thought of their time at Tignis. They were all in agreement, that there were pros and cons of working at a small company compared to a big company. An example they gave was, when you are working in such a small company, there is much more accountability, due to the fact that there are few employees, so finding the “guilty” party, is much easier. Compared to a big company, where there is a large chain of command, so the blame gets spread around more. Another example given was how they enjoyed coming in on a project that doesn’t already have all the building blocks placed yet, you are part of the team that is laying down the foundation. So you have to make decisions that you may not know if it is right or wrong, you just have to believe in what you decide. After finishing up talking with the three employees, Jon came back and briefly talked about business models and then we were sent on our way for the afternoon.
Me and my friend Ryan went to a small Italian sandwich shop which was absolutely delicious for lunch. Just as every other food shop in downtown Seattle, there is almost no seating and it feels about the size of Luther dorm but none the less, the food is still amazing. We ventured back to the condos to relax until we met up with the group for a book report Erik, was giving. We spent about 45 minutes discussing the book he read for the course and then we were set free for the weekend. Me and my other two roommates, Ryan and Tyler, headed back to our condo where we relaxed for a bit and then we got to working on dinner. In an attempt to save money while we are out traveling, we try and do as much cooking ourselves as possible, as it is much cheaper than eating out every meal. We ended the night eating the spaghetti we made while watching the magnificent 7 over dinner. Yet another great day in Seattle (mostly because it wasn’t raining all day)!
Exerpt taken with permission from Matt's blog.