A self-described "corporate refugee turned entrepreneur," Bryan Janeczko worked at Morgan Stanley before founding his own venture, an online prepared food vendor called NuKitchen. He sold that company to Nutrisystem two and a half years ago, but wanted to continue working with start-ups. Janeczko wanted to do something to help other people grow their own businesses, so he decided to gather funds from the sale of NuKitchen in 2010 to found Wicked Start, a free online incubator for early-stage small businesses. The site offers free services and advice from experienced entrepreneurs and business owners, but charges for premium resources. Janeczko sat down with Inc.com's Matthew DeLuca to talk about helping start-ups find their footing.
There are lots of incubators out there. How is your online incubator different?
I think what I have here is a much more scalable entity. I found that a lot of incubators out there just didn't meet the needs of a lot of folks. I thought that this was a great way to leverage a lot of my own experience plus thousands of other entrepreneurs starting out. The service was initially a paid service because I believed that people would pay for this service, but there were a number of issues. So quickly we learned that offering the service for free and then offering services people can buy down the road is much more successful. We recommend products and services along the way, so that's how we look to make money off of this. It's free for users. It gives you everything along the way from how to build a prototype to how to pitch investors.
Do you take an equity stake in exchange for funding, like many incubators?
We do not do that at present. Our focus right now is to help people see if their idea is viable, and if they have the tools to do it. When it comes to funding, we have a relationship with Angelsoft.net. They're big in providing angel capital; they're super angels. They have a Wicked Start branded page that they've started for us.
What kind of business is best suited for Wicked Start?
There's really two types of people. There's the person who is just thinking about starting a business, I don't care if it's Little Miss Moonshine Ice Cream or if it's the next social network. That person is going to make a decision early on whether or not entrepreneurship is viable for them. A lot of ideas may be viable, but is it viable for them.
What resources does Wicked Start offer a start-up?
We offer video, we have white papers, we have all sorts of resources so you can understand the value of that step in the start-up process. And finally there is a resource center. Many of these services are free, some are low cost, and some are premium. At this point I have a lot of people who are coming to me and want to be a part of Wicked Start. If we're going to offer a service, we have to understand it. A lot of our earlier users made it clear that they wanted vetted content. I do have a person on my staff dedicated to vetting new resources. Until we're comfortable with that resource, we're not going to offer it.
We have about 300 recommendations for the early-stage startup. Some of these might be good for small businesses, but a lot of them are just directed to people who are starting small businesses. We go from our experience. We're happy to share our experience. As for our team, all of these people I have a relationship with, I've worked with them. I know the quality of their work. The reason these guys are interested in it is if they continually answer questions that are valid, people may want to come and hire them for their services. Warren Wilson, who's a marketing guru, he's been really helpful answering low-cost marketing questions.
What plans do you have for the future?
In August we have a very big deployment coming out based on the feedback that we've had. We had 200 users about three months ago. Now we have 1,000. We don't engage in a lot of direct marketing. Hopefully we're taking a tip from Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point. My goal is to reach 10,000 users by the end of the year.