Onswipe and author of the new book, "The Ultralight Startup: Launching a Startup Without Clout or Capital", it's all about thinking big, keeping it simple and shipping quickly.What's the secret to startup success? According to Jason Baptiste, CEO of
In quintessential entrepreneurial fashion, Onswipe was born when Baptiste and cofounder Andres Barreto couldn't find a solution to a problem they were each independently experiencing. They started "with an idea and the belief that something big would come of it." But no money. Within six months they had raised $6 million in two rounds of VC funding, and had 15 employees. (They're now up to a staff of 30.)
Market shifts were the impetus for creating Onswipe, a multimillion-dollar business which works with publishers to format website content on tablet platforms. The founders actually dub it "Angry Birds for content." Baptiste and Barreto noted "large shifts of behavior away from pay-per-click and towards pay-per-swipe," and the rising popularity of tablets, before launching their business.
From the beginning, Baptiste says, they made a "conscious decision to build a large business." But they created a formula Baptiste now recommends for all startups: "Keep it [your idea] simple; build it [a prototype] simple; and be ready to ship in 30 to 60 days." And it helps if your idea can be "supported by advertising," he adds.
Though so many successful tech startups are born in Silicon Valley, Baptiste admits his biggest mistake was almost "locating on the wrong coast. We would have tanked if we started on the West Coast," he says, "and we almost did. We were lucky our first round of money was raised on the East Coast." His advice to media or digital startups is to locate where the advertisers are - in New York City.
The other action that was "crucial" to their success was applying (and getting accepted) to TechStars NYC, a highly ranked startup incubator and accelerator. Onswipe had already raised $1 million before it joined TechStars, but being there helped the company to "do more faster," Baptiste says. The question became, "How fast can we accelerate? How much can we grow in three months?"
The answer? Really fast - in three months the company raised another $5 million in funding.
Baptiste wrote "The Ultralight Startup" because he believes "entrepreneurship is leading the 21st century renaissance, changing the world and the way we think about work." Being an entrepreneur, he writes in his book, "has become not only a respected career path but a necessary one" in this post-recessionary economy.
But what exactly is an ultralight startup?
As defined by Baptiste, it's about "creating a startup from scratch -- with little upfront capital, little experience, or few connections in your industry." It's "like a Porsche," he says. "It's lightweight and doesn't seem like much. But when you get into a certain gear, you have to accelerate. You have to do everything possible to get to the next gear. You can't be afraid to accelerate."
And now is the ideal time to hit the gas. "The good news," Baptiste writes, "is that the barriers to becoming an entrepreneur are lower than ever before. The Internet has made it possible for anyone to connect with influencers, experts and potential customers around the world." But first, he warns, you need to "stop listening to the MBAs and any other naysayers. It's time to free your mind."
Baptiste realizes Onswipe's success was a bit out of the ordinary. The company enjoyed a "perfect storm of market, product and people," he says, referring to his team and timing.
What's next for Baptiste and Onswipe? In addition to writing another book, Baptiste predicts Onswipe's "next evolution will be hundreds of percentages greater."
If you want to craft your own ultralight startup, Baptiste offers a three-step plan:
- Set out to make it big.
- See the opportunity, go with your gut and triple down.
- Keep on shipping.