BizSpark Startup of the Day – Fivespark

The BizSpark Startup of the Day is Fivespark, a DogPatch Labs startup based in the US. Below you will find an interview with Karl Kemp, Founder and CEO of Fivespark. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!


Tell us who you are and your role in the company:

I’m the founder and CEO. My background is as a software developer, so I’ve put a lot of effort into the design of our product, but I’ve tried to remain disciplined and put as much or more effort in to growing the business.

What did you do before creating your company?

I’ve spent almost my whole career on the technical side of small companies. Most recently I was the CTO for a company building web-based survey software. Before that I was the lead architect at a mobile enterprise software developer. I began my career in consulting, which has helped me stay focused on delivering tangible value to my customers even as I moved more deeply into the technical side of things.

How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?

It’s an amazing honor and the whole team is really excited by it. When you’re launching a new company getting that sort of validation is what gets you out of bed in the morning. Just like when your first customer gives you that purchase order or credit card number, it’s such a thrill to realize that you’re not the only ones that think you’re on to something.

What is your company’s mission?

Our mission is to make building mobile apps as accessible to small businesses as accounting software has become. I spent a good portion of my career building internal mobile applications for Fortune 500 companies and got to see first hand the transformative impact they had in terms of reducing expenses and growing revenue. We want to bring that same impact to smaller companies that can’t afford a fleet of outside developers and don’t have the in-house ability to build apps themselves.

In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:

Fivespark is a web-based mobile app builder that lets SMBs build apps that deliver real business value without any developer skills.

How did you get the idea for your company?

It was from a combination of experiences at one of my previous start-ups. We started out trying to sell our software and services to smaller business, but it involved a lot of custom development and it was just out of their league. We later pivoted and started building custom high-end mobile applications for large enterprises. I knew those smaller customers still needed help, and that their larger competitors were using mobile technology to extend their lead. I knew if we could simplify the process of building mobile apps but still deliver real business value we’d be on to something important.

Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?

We raised a modest seed round about a year ago that we’ve used to validate our model. Now that we have some customer traction we’re beginning the process of looking for additional capital to scale the business.

How many employees do you have? How many developers?

We have four full time and three part time employees. We have two full time and two part time developers.

Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?

We’re at full strength for now, but would look to make additional hires once we’ve raised additional capital.

Which platform are you building on? Why?

Our core application is ASP.NET 4.0 Web Forms with SQL Server 2008 as our database. People often wonder why we’re building on Web Forms and not MVC, but for our application, which needs to be completely dynamic in structure as well as form, Web Forms are the natural fit. We chose .NET for its superior development tools that allow very rapid development as well as its wide acceptance within businesses.

Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?

I think the growing power and abilities of our mobile devices is creating an enormous opportunity. People are becoming much more comfortable consuming and interacting with information through their phones, and they’re seeing how having access to more and better information helps them perform better and make better decisions while they’re on the go. Businesses that harness those abilities are going to get the benefits of the next great wave of productivity improvements.

What do you think about the BizSpark Program?

BizSpark has been a key factor in our ability to get to market using our chosen tool set without having to weigh its benefits against a large cost. Microsoft has been a great partner for us, with support that has gone far beyond just providing software.

Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?

Two things: First, just go for it. I hemmed and hawed before helping to launch my first start up – I was worried about giving up my so-called stable job - but I’ve come to realize that there’s no substitute for the energy of a new company, and that stability is often temporary anyway. Second, find your fit. Figure out who’s going to pay for your product and go talk to them to make sure you’re building what they’re willing to pay for.

Who’s your role model?

John Adams – he risked everything he had later in life when he had the most to lose, and took sometimes unpopular stands for what he believed in.

What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?

Apps aren’t just for killing pigs or keeping in touch with your friends, nor are they only for large enterprises. They can deliver substantial business value even for small businesses that might not think they can build them on their own.

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