Welcome to our new series “5 Questions”. We’ll be sitting down with a PIE alum and asking them 5 questions about their entrepreneurial journey, and sharing their answers with you. To kick things off, we sat down with Mark McCoy, Creative Director of Teak.
1. What are some of the bigger challenges for players in your industry?
There are so many. The big one I’ve been thinking about lately is: Getting new customers to adopt the practices they need to see success. There’s so much to this, understanding customer’s priorities, getting the user onboarding just right, and making sure that your value proposition aligns with the job they are trying to get done.
With a SaaS company like Teak, we are asking our customers to change their workflow– do something new that they weren’t doing before– so they can see an improvement in user growth and retention. The value is there, but getting a whole app development team on board is a big challenge.
First you have to motivate the emotions to understand the “why” they should try this new thing. Then, you have to explain the “how” to the practical side. Meanwhile, you need to make sure the emotion side is still excited and not overwhelmed, otherwise they might just procrastinate the whole thing.
Now, take that and spread it across a whole team where different people have different roles. It gets messy. You can see why on-boarding new people is an art form, a challenge, but also kind of fun to try to figure out.
2. What’s a small change you’ve recently made at Teak that’s resulted in large positive results?
We brought on Davey Jackson to lead our sales and business development. I like to think of him as “chief getting out and talking to more people officer.” Okay, bringing someone on isn’t really a small change, but it has brought a large positive result. We are now talking to more potential customers, learning more about their needs, and refining our offering as a result.
3. How has being in the Portland community helped your company become what it is today?
I should use this space to talk about how amazing PIE is and how the network of mentors is so generous and giving with their time and wisdom. They are, it’s been a really great experience.
But, because it’s almost lunch time as I’m writing this, I feel I should also highlight an under-appreciated member of the Portland scene: the Koi Fusion food truck. The Korean short rib burrito has fueled many of my work sessions and help power both creativity and productivity. Mmm… burrito…
4. How/when/why did you decide to jump ship and start your own company?
I’m a serial startup junky. I started at a gaming startup right out of college. That got bought, and then bought again. Then I started at another game startup where we faced the challenges that Teak is currently solving.
So, it was a natural move for us, we built a product for ourselves and figured, “hey, this would be useful for other people like us.”
5. PIE’s 2014 class will be arriving this summer. Having been through PIE and now a year out, what’s one piece of advice would you give to new participating founders?
Talk to customers. No, really, are you talking to customers? You should probably talk to more customers. There’s so much learning that comes out of those conversations and no amount of whiteboard speculation can substitute. Even for those of us who are building a product that scratches your own itch: Get out there and find out what your people really need.
Also, get a Korean short rib burrito. They are delicious.
6. Is it always about burritos with you?