Sponsor Spotlight - Craig Lewis

CEO Spotlight: Craig Lewis, Visage Payroll

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Q: What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Give thanks. Gratitude is the best way to start the day.

Q: What time does your day begin?

I wake up around 5am every day. No alarm.

Q: What time do you end your day?

On average 11pm.

Q: How did you get the idea or concept for your business?

I wanted to design payroll software that looked and felt more modern, so we studied Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google etc. One day I was on Facebook and my wife called and asked me to transfer some money into her account to pay some bills. I opened up a new tab, logged into our Chase account and transferred a couple thousand dollars to my wife. That’s when it hit me. Facebook is free. Online banking is free. Payroll can be free. So we made free payroll our mission.

Q: What’s behind your motivation and drive?

My upbringing, my wife and 3 daughters and mostly passion to leave a legacy and greatly impact the world.

Q: Free Payroll? How does that work?

How does Facebook, Google, CreditKarma or Twitter work? We make smart recommendations to our customers for things we know they want and need. Think: insurance, financial services, 401k, other saas offerings like Office 365 etc. And instead of charging struggling small businesses, we make money by partnering with large small business service providers. Current Partners like Ondeck Capital providing small business loans.

Q: How can you see your company making a national impact?

Free payroll for 1,000,000 US small businesses and we plan to help 100k entrepreneurs start new businesses. We see the as the largest economic stimulus package the US has ever seen.

I always say: Payroll is the lifeline of small business and small business is the heartbeat of the economy, so at the foundation of economic success, you’ll find efficient payroll.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge your company faces right now?

I don’t look at things as challenges, more so opportunities. As an early stage company, raising capital is always at the forefront of the to do list.

Q: What’s your roadmap ahead?

2017 is a big growth year for us in terms of adding small businesses.

Q: Never do business with someone who…

You can’t trust and or don’t vibe well with.

Q: Biggest goal for your company right now?

Finishing building the MVP. (oh – raise some more money 😉

Q: Why start a business in Dallas?

Flushed with capital, entrepreneurial history and spirit plus the cost of living and doing business is still very affordable.

Q: Does your company help out the local community?

Yes, we’ve contributed to several events & non for profits this past year, like Friends of Fair Park, Entrepreneurs for North Texas and look forward to launching Visage Cares in the near future to support our charitable efforts.

Q: What’s the most common misconception about your company?

That it’s not 100% absolutely free. Everyone thinks there’s a catch or an upgrade.

Q: How is VisagePayroll head and shoulders above the rest?

Free. Modern. We’ve designed software for people not processes.

Q: Best place to have a lunch meeting in Dallas?

I frequent CBD provisions in the Joule hotel, but also love the food at Dallas Fish Market.

Q: Best advice to entrepreneurs trying to get started?

Make sure it’s what you really have to do. Because it’s going to get really hard and if you just “want” to do it, that won’t be good enough. “Zero Optionality” is a great state to start in.

Q: What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep? (Assuming you sleep).

Give thanks. Gratitude is the best way to finish the day.

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Meet Our Interns: Sean, Daniel, Alex, Alyssa, Doug and Arya

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Here at Tech Wildcatters, our interns help us get amazing things done. (Seriously, a lot of things). And now it’s time for you to meet them.

Sean

Hello, my name is Sean Kearney and I’m beyond excited for refilling the Men’s Restroom with paper towels and learning valuable lessons this summer during my internship at Tech Wildcatters. What I look forward to most is being able to showcase my ability to be a proactive learner, listener, and overall A+ intern by going beyond the call of duty for all of the employees of TW and the current start-ups. Getting comfortable and familiar in new environments comes naturally to me and I’m ready to do just that here at TW.

Originally from Austin, where I resided for the first 21 ½ years of my life, I packed my bags with my girlfriend of 4 years to move up to Denton where we both planned to continue our education and eventually finish our degrees. I’m finishing up my last semester of school this year at UNT and look forward to implementing the knowledge I’ve obtained from it with the experience of this internship and my past jobs to further myself as a more complete individual. My motivation for getting up and doing what I do is the idea that everybody holds potential to learn and grow, and if you believe differently than you’re wrong because this idea isn’t an opinion. It’s much easier to wake up and get going on an idea or project that you care about learning more on and progressing than it is to do with something you just aren’t passionate about, and that’s why I’m here trying to soak up all the information and experience as a sponge would to water.

If I were to go home today and not have to work again for the rest of my life the first thing I would do would be packing my bags and traveling to Japan (after I get my passport). Traveling may sound cliché, but I’ve never been out of the country so there’s my defense. I’d go to Japan because I’m morbidly obsessed with sushi and from what I’ve heard, and a little common sense, Japan is just the place for that. After that I would “spin the wheel” so to speak to find out where to go next, it would definitely be a while before I would make it back to the states.

Daniel
Hello! My name is Daniel Oved. I was born and raised in Dallas, and now I study computer engineering at Boston University. I have two years left for my undergraduate degree, which I plan to use working with virtual reality startups. I am excited to work at Tech Wildcatters and become a part of the Dallas startup community. While I am here, I want to work on as many projects as I can. I can code in C++, HTML, and Python, and would love to write some programs. I have always wanted to create my own startup. Working at TW, seeing all of the talent and ideas, is a motivator like none other.

Having said that, if I could go home right now and not have to work another day in my life, I know exactly what I would do. I want to build a tiny home on a trailer and drive it across North and South America, visiting all of the national parks and forests along the way. The only non-essentials I would bring are a computer, to do some fun freelance work, a puppy, to scare away the ghosts at night, and some books. I would bring plenty of books because I love learning new things.

I tend to dive in way over my head when I start learning something new. For example, a few years ago I wanted to learn about cars, so I bought an old BMW that had not driven in a decade. Logically, the first thing I did was put a kick-ass speaker system into it. Afterwards, I began learning how to get the motor to run while I bumped some Bach –classical music helps me focus. I had no idea where to begin restoring it, but I took the project one step at a time and today it is my daily driver. My car is the thing I am most proud of in life and I love it (maybe a little too much)!

Alex

My name is Alex Klaassen and I am so excited to spend my summer hiding inside from the heat and humidity as well as learning as much as I can here at Tech Wildcatters. I’m organized, ambitious, and ready to get stuff done. I’m a very hard worker and am excited for everything this summer has to offer from work experience to getting to know the startups to working with interesting and determined people.

While I am a native Texan by birth and association, I grew up in southern California and now split my time between Dallas, LA, and New York City. I’m a student at Southern Methodist University pursuing a degree in Management Science. In my free time I enjoy bothering my friends, riding my horse, and skiing (I’m more outdoorsy than I look).
If I were to leave here right now and never work another day in my life, I would go home, make myself a grilled cheese, and sit on the couch for a while. Tomorrow, I would fly back to California and go on a backpacking trip (like I said, more outdoorsy than I look). After that, I’d honestly probably work even though I wouldn’t need to because I get bored really easily.

One of my biggest strengths is my ability to problem solve. I’m obsessed with puzzles and solving them and will go as far as saying I can almost always figure them out. I’m also known for my trunk-packing abilities (I call it trunk Tetris). I’m a very self-motivated person, meaning the majority of my motivation just sort of comes naturally. I like being good at things and I also like winning, so I’m motivated by a need to live up to my potential.

Alyssa
Our new intern Alyssa has come to Tech Wildcatters all the way from her native state of Iowa, and is a soon-to-be senior at the accredited business college at the University of Northern Iowa. Alyssa is triple-majoring in Business Economics, Global Marketing, and Advertising and Digital Media, double-minoring in Political Science and International Affairs, and pursuing a certificate in International Business, and she’s loving how much she’s getting to learn. She’s bringing to the summer intern team her marketing and economics perspectives, as well as her innate excitement for working in Tech Wildcatters’ fast-paced and innovative work environment.

Alyssa is most proud of her marketing experiences and language learning. In terms of marketing, she’s strengthened her skills by working on various projects, just a few of which include projects for national brand Dr. Pepper Snapple, the recently launched non-fiction book Hippie, Inc., and the Cedar Falls local business Chad’s Pizza and Restaurant. A great fit for Tech Wildcatters, what Alyssa enjoys about marketing is that it gives her the ability to create something – exactly what Tech Wildcatters and our startups are all about.

Alyssa is also proud of her language learning, which just happens to be one of her top hobbies. She has studied Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, and Italian, though she emphasizes that she definitely is not fluent in any of them. According to her, she loves the way that both the study and employment of the languages challenges her, as well as the fun experiences she gets when she gets to use her language skills abroad. In her own words, if she never had to work again, she would spend most of her time learning languages, traveling “everywhere”, and rock climbing.

Alyssa is excited about assisting our startups in any way that she can, especially when it comes to their marketing strategies, and is also very much looking forward to Tech Wildcatters’ biweekly Pitch Days and weekly Pitch Practices. She hopes to have as many learning experiences at Tech Wildcatters as she can before she leaves us for Japan in the month of June.

Doug

Hi my name is Doug Lunn, If I was able to go home today and never had to work a day in my life again…I wouldn’t do anything differently. I work because I want to. I am very proud of many things: I have traveled to 33 countries, helped knock down the Berlin wall, been paid to travel for a card game, worked as a venture capitalist specializing in material science based investment, and survived cancer. I am fiercely motivated by competition and winning.

I have done legal and geological work for oil companies, I have worked as a venture capitalist focusing on early stage technology, I helped create a VR Sports game. I know a lot about a little and a little about a lot and above all else I am the one to call when things get chaotic, I thrive under chaos and am more comfortable outside my comfort zone than in it.

I am here to get involved with startups, become familiar with the Dallas entrepreneurial scene and above all else take my first steps to try to get back into the venture capital game. This country needs new ideas, new companies, and new jobs more than ever.

AryaHi, my name is Arya Monticino and I’m so excited to spend my summer at Tech Wildcatters. I just finished my freshman year at the University of Washington, and am looking to come closer to home to the University of Texas in the fall. I’m a mechanical engineering major, so this experience is outside of my usual realm, but I’m so thankful for the diversification TW will give my skillset. As cliché as it sounds, I’m motivated by my family to make the most out of this experience and life in general. Both of my parents had it very tough growing up, and they’ve worked their whole lives to create the opportunities for me that they never had; because of that, I want to do whatever it takes to make their sacrifices worth it and make them proud.

One thing I myself am proud of is my ability to adapt and to learn new things fairly quickly. I like to think of myself as a chameleon of sorts; I am able to jump into many different situations and excel. I’ve always been a math and science geek, but I also have exercised my right brain with music and public speaking. The diversity of my abilities is something that I think strengthens me.

Working with kids is one of my real passions. In Seattle, I worked with the Boys and Girls club and led them in engineering activities. If I were to never work a day in my life, I would volunteer with kids. The rewards that that provides are worth how tiring it is to keep kids still.


 

Day in the Life: Arya’s First Day

When I walked into the TW office for the first time this morning, I immediately knew that it was a different kind of work environment. From the telephone booth in the corner, the smiling interns waiting to greet me, and the startups starting to trickle in, the entire office was more welcoming than I could have imagined and felt familiar immediately. Soon after I arrived, I sat in on the T4 Curriculum that Molly led. I felt a strange combination of both intimidated and comforted; the startups here are doing undeniably incredible things and the team here is amazingly smart, but they are real people (which, admittedly, I doubted when looking at their impressive resumes.) The startups took the time to ask questions, admit that they needed guidance, and look to each other and the TW team for advice.

The diversity of the startups is a testament to the strength of TW. On my lap around the office, I received a huge variety of pitches. Stones Inc puts buyers in direct contact with the natural stone industry, eliminating the middle man and lowering cost by up to 30%. On another end of the spectrum, Stuntshare connects travelers with lower cost adventures with local providers, providing better services for fair prices. The consistency between every group I talked to was much more prominent than their differences, however: when I asked about how they liked TW, they beamed. The Fast Visa team enthused about how Dallas was a huge draw to them, and how TW helped them shift from a B2C model to B2B. Tigli, a startup which aggregates communication inside companies using artificial intelligence, felt such a draw to TW that they moved from Paris, France to Dallas.

All in all, it’s been an incredible first day. It’s easy to see why all of the startups are happy here; TW is not only allowing them to pursue their passions, but giving them all the tools to excel. One of the most inspiring interviews I had today was with Fetch, an on demand package delivery service for residential buildings. The founder told me the classic story of starting his company; he saw a problem, thought of a solution, and went for it. Thanks to TW, he was able to quit his full time job in corporate finance in May to focus solely on Fetch. This kind of story lets me know that I’m in the right place. People really are living their dreams here- that’s evident even from my first day. I’m so proud and thankful to be a part of this team, even if it is just for the summer. Arya Monticino


 

 

Haven’t met them in person yet?
Swing by Tech Wildcatters and say hello!

 

Sponsor Spotlight - Jason Taylor

CEO Spotlight: Jason Taylor, Code Authority/CodeLaunch

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Q: What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

Have coffee, watch Fox Business News and then hit the gym.

Q: What time does your day begin?

Exactly 3 hours before the first meeting that day.

Q: What time do you end your day?

5:30pm to 9pm-“ish”, depending on business dinner plans.

Q: How did you get the idea or concept for your business?

When I was working for Cerner Corp (Kansas City, MO) in 1996 they hired this hip custom software group from San Diego to build a POC. They did great work and I wanted to be them so bad, I also wanted to build the POC. I vowed to find a way and started Code Authority in 2001 five years later. CodeLaunch is a seed accelerator we spun off in 2013.

Q: What’s behind your motivation and drive?

I want to build cool things. As much as that I want companies to call us every time there is something cool to build, and not our competitors. I want a place that is fun to work for other people like me.

Q: How does CodeLaunch work?

We invite the world to bring us business opportunities and ideas that need a software development team to create an “MVP”. We pick the best one at a finalists’ Pitch Day and “do a deal” with them. The pitch day is also a rocking party. Later our team builds the product and voila, startups are born on an annual cycle.

Q: How can you see your company making a national impact?

That’s easy. CodeLaunch is already doing that. Last year’s winner was from Boise, Idaho. This year we have almost 25% of our applications from international countries, and another 50% from States other than Texas. When the world finds out all our employees share in the equity we get in these startups every custom dev shop is going to copy this model.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge your company faces right now?

We have lots of fun startups to work for. We could use some more big established companies who need product development in DFW. Bring us your projects people!

Q: What’s your roadmap ahead?

Continue to grow our brand and swing for the fences with CodeLaunch. Continue to develop and maintain the College Football Playoff committee meeting platform. Win great projects with growing companies of all sizes in DFW and our region.

Q: Never do business with someone who _____

Is getting a startup “MLM” off the ground.

Q: Biggest goal for your company right now?

Grow local and regional business opportunities with established medium and large companies.

Q: Why start a business in DFW?

DFW is clearly the most diverse and technical city in Texas and is a national hub with direct international flights to all the important big cities worldwide. There are lots of great universities and the property values aren’t too insane (yet). Taxes are great and the suburb municipalities work with private enterprise in a really unified way. Certainly that is so in Frisco where we are located and most of us live.

Q: Does your company help out the local community?

Certainly, aside from CodeLaunch we donate a lot of our time to local Hackathons and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem events such as Dallas Startup Week. Two of our executives are deeply involved with donating time and money to ManKind, a local prostate cancer charity and have been since it was started well over 5 years ago.

Q: What’s the most common misconception about your company?

That everyone here has a man-bun. It’s actually only one dude. A man-bun is not the same thing as a brony-tail. A man-bun folds back into the hair tie thing. A Brony-tail just sticks it of it a little bit. Admittedly, there are at least two others with brony-tails, including the prez.

Q: How is CodeLaunch head and shoulders above the rest?

There are very few if any accelerators/incubators that provide a technical product development team to create an MVP. It is also a cost-free source of seed funding for embryonic stage startups with nothing more than an idea. Most entrepreneurial institutions find this stage to be risky and they are right. It may even be crazy.

Q: Best place to have a lunch meeting in Dallas?

S&D Oyster Bar.

Q: Best advice to entrepreneurs trying to get started?

Be prepared to hear “no” and not give up. But be prepared to learn and adapt each time.

Q: What’s the last thing you do before you go to sleep? (Assuming you sleep).

Completely check out with some GOT, Silicon Valley, or FO4.

 

Find out more about CodeLaunch’s Pitch Day!

CodeLaunch

Message from Our Newest Partner: CodeLaunch

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Tech Wildcatters and CodeLaunch are symbiotic amenities in the North Texas entrepreneurism ecosystem, which is one reason why CodeLaunch is thrilled to be partnered with Tech Wildcatters. CodeLaunch is an annual seed accelerator which pairs embryonic stage software technology startups with software developers and entrepreneurs. CodeLaunch was created and is produced by Frisco, TX based Code Authority and a family of entrepreneurial minded sponsors and partners.

CodeLaunch is for great people who have intriguing startup opportunities that need their first round of funding, developers to build their MVP, a needed introduction or exposure to downstream incubators. The process begins at the annual application deadline May 31 when hundreds of embryonic stage startup proprietors, and their ideas, go under our microscope. During that process the finalists are selected, coached, mentored and prepared for Pitch Day.

At Pitch Day the finalists have an opportunity to pitch to a panel of distinguished entrepreneurs and an audience of hundreds made up of developers, community leaders, and people from the community interested in entrepreneurship. Each has an equal opportunity to earn accolades from the judges, seed capital or equity stake conversations from software developers like Code Authority. The CA team chooses one or more winners from the finalists at the Pitch Day and makes an offer to build the “MVP” for an equity stake, which the CA employees share in.

In contrast to many other accelerators, competitors are not required to agree to equity deals to compete. Through at least 2016 it will remain free to enter and Pitch Day attendees who RSVP gain complimentary entrance. CodeLaunch is an open marketplace for startups, capital partners, and developers to start discussions which lead to launched companies.

When the pitches are complete and the awards given out, the real fun begins. The Deal Making Reception is a short exhibition of vendors, startups, partners and sponsors who enjoy the energetic vibe of ground level innovation, invention and community engagement. Food, drink, music and the spirit of opportunity are enjoyed by all.

2016 CodeLaunch Dates

  • May 31 – Applications Due
  • Aug 17 – Pitch Day. Dr. Pepper Arena Frisco, TX

Together with Tech Wildcatters support, CodeLaunch will continue to be the embryonic stage startup amenity that serves our North Texas community and the nation at large. We look forward to meeting you at the Tech Wildcatters Pitch Day “VIP Reception” May 26.

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