Our thanks to Garrett Moon, CEO and Co-Founder of CoSchedule – a highly successful North Dakota-based business, for sharing his thoughts on entrepreneurship.
Please tell us about CoSchedule. When did you start? What services do you provide?
Justin, my Co-Founder, and I were running a web development and marketing consulting company and executing all our own marketing. We were writing blog posts, publishing social media and using email marketing – and it was painfully tedious. It took hours to publish one blog post and manage five or six different tools. It was crazy. It didn’t take long for us to learn that many of our clients were experiencing many of the same problems. As digital marketing was exploding, the number of channels that had to be on a marketing team’s radar was exploding as well – only exacerbating the problem.
We built CoSchedule to simplify the marketing process for businesses like ours and other professional marketing teams. Our software connects all their marketing channels on a single calendar that gives them drag-and-drop scheduling. We also add a host of workflow, social media and project management tools to make sure that CoSchedule is the only marketing calendar our customers need to manage their entire process – top to bottom.
What was your business’ original mission and how has that evolved?
For us, the mission has always been about building a product that our customers love. We’ve always wanted to build something that is extremely useful, solves a real problem for our customers and is fun to use. Over the years, the features in our product have changed a lot as our customers’ needs evolved, but the mission has stayed the same. We build software that makes our customers’ lives easier, plain and simple.
Do you prefer to pursue funding or build organically, and why?
We’ve raised more than $2.7 million in equity-based capital since starting the company, but we’ve actually been a cash-flow/break-even company since 2015. Because our business model revolves around a monthly subscription, we have a really strong cash resource that we can rely on to run the business. We use this as the barometer for day-to-day spending.
Other than some of the early months, the funding that we’ve raised has been used exclusively for growth-based opportunities. This includes things like marketing and sales expansion, deep investments into our product and/or exploring new marketing opportunities.
We’re kind of the perfect hybrid between a bootstrapped business and one built on the backs of paid-in capital. Sometimes companies that raise a lot of capital build the company before they build the business. We think our approach keeps the size of our company in check while we build a strong business.
It is also worth mentioning that all our capital is North Dakota-based. We assembled a large coalition of angel investors throughout the state and have incorporated some of the best funding programs our state has to offer like the North Dakota Development Fund and Bank of North Dakota.
What would you say is the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
We’re solving a real problem in a market where customers are actively looking for a solution. We’re following the needs of the customers, and that is always a recipe for success. Too often entrepreneurship is built around the big idea. Ideas are good, but if they aren’t tied to an actual problem you will have a really hard time getting them off the ground. People don’t buy ideas, they buy solutions.
What are the three smartest decision you’ve made with your business?
First, keeping our company in North Dakota has been huge. There are a lot of voices that will tell you that in order to do something big you will need to leave our state. We’ve found this to be completely false. In fact, we see North Dakota as one of our biggest advantages. The financial resources and professional talent in our state are under-represented and under-valued. We’ve tapped into them and it has been nothing but rewarding.
Second, we’ve stayed away from true ‘Silicone Valley style’ venture capital. I see a lot of incompatibility between our company and the tech-based venture capital model. It isn’t as aligned as founders would like to believe and I think we have been better off in avoiding it. By doing so, we’ve tapped into several more beneficial sources and have a healthier company because of it. You give up some creature comfort things this way, buy you also avoid many headaches. I like where we’re at.
Third, we made early commitments to talking to our customers and listening to their needs rather than getting distracted by our own “vision.” Many early founders lose focus and react too emotionally to their business and product. When you base your product on the customer and long-term wins you are far more less likely to fall victim to the risk of losing customer focus.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as an entrepreneur?
We’ve made a ton of mistakes, but most of them have provided such valuable learning opportunities that I can’t imagine life without them. Many of your biggest mistakes will be necessary. The key is to embrace them, learn from them and keep moving forward.
I always say that entrepreneurship is basically just solving the next biggest problems at all times. Once you’ve solved a big problem you just move onto the next one. Mistakes are like that. Dust yourself off, learn and move on. If I had to provide an example, I’d say charging too little for our product in the beginning. You can, and should always, be charging more for what you do. I’ve yet to find an exception to this rule.