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Startup253 Company Profile: Scout Military.
Co-Founder and CEO, Rob Coons
Location: Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington
Elevator pitch, GO! Explain what Scout Military does:
Scout Military makes it easy for military families to find & redeem military discounts.
How (and when) were you inspired to start your company:
I joined Scout as a co-founder in 2015. Prior, I was building growth systems for startups. Scout Military was poised to help millions of people, fix a completely broken system, and give my nerdy side billions of data points to analyze. It was a perfect match from the start.
The path to funding (Bootstrap, Angel or VC):
We had an angel back out of an LOI commitment on signing day, and the team bootstrapped for an entire year on some small advertising revenue. During that time, we accumulated tens of thousands of downloads and kept the product moving. We exhausted every angel and debt-based resource before going on the VC tour in late 2016. With so many downloads and a large market, VCs were interested and we closed a modest seed round about 6 weeks after we started pitching. Today, we’re opening a new note and raising our “Series Seed” throughout 2018.
Tell us about your ‘secret sauce’ without giving away your ‘secret sauce’:
Focus on the product. All the fancy pitches, scaling strategies, and cool startup offices only come when you have a product that people love.
What's the smartest move you've made thus far?
Staying true to our users and using the last of our seed funding for a comprehensive rebuild. Our investors wanted us to use it for marketing to attract people to an app that, we thought, didn’t fulfill our promise to our users. We didn’t make many friends in the boardroom, but we allocated marketing funds to improve the product; and it’s turned out to be a choice that may have saved us in the early stages.
What's the biggest mistake you've made thus far? (Note: There are no mistakes, only learning lessons)
See above - dedicating our early seed stage money to an app that tried to monetize before it had built an audience. Product first!
Windows Phone, Apple, or Android?
How do you strengthen the relationship(s) with your team?
We play an old game called OpenRA. RA stands for Red Alert, and it’s a classic 90’s strategy game. We’ll stay in the office late sometimes and just play out some nostalgia and listen to good music.
What characteristic(s) do you look for when hiring a new employee:
Simple execution. At an early stage, it’s easy to have too many coaches and not enough field players. If everyone plays their position, it’s much more productive.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out?
Focus on the product and make sure your customers/users love it. Find a small use case, put it in front of a small group, and ensure they love it.
A small, dedicated, and engaged user base is a quicker way to venture capital than a big idea and a slick presentation, I promise.