Jon Brelig started his first company while still in high school building websites for other local businesses.
His freshman year of college at the University of Texas, he founded SkiReport.com. The business grew to the No. 2 visited ski site on the web and #1 mobile ski destination before being acquired by Vail Resorts.
Next, he founded FantasyBook where he brought the first fully-fledged fantasy sports experience to the new Facebook developer platform and established the basis for what is now Yahoo! Sports' social games.
In 2011, he co-founded InfoScout.
Jon saw the need for brands to be able to take the raw data they collect about consumer behavior and turn them into actionable insights that can be used to determine real-world shopping decisions.
Recently, his company has seen a massive explosion in growth and just debuted at No. 84 on the Inc. 5000 fastest growing private companies in North America.
I caught up with Jon last week and asked him to share some insights regarding his passion for entrepreneurialism, getting a startup funded, and how millennials should lead.
What's your primary motivation for becoming an entrepreneur and where did you get your passion?
Jon Brelig: I really enjoy being a problem solver. That's what gets me up every day.
It's all too common to witness entrepreneurs conjuring up products after they've decided to start a company, just to learn later the problem doesn't really exist, or they're not passionate about the product they're building.
Keep in mind, most of the successful companies of our era were not started with a business plan in mind, but the result of smart people simply looking to solve a problem.
With InfoScout you didn't secure funding right away, in fact, it took awhile. What insights would you give to entrepreneurs about securing funding?
Jon Brelig: Know the yardstick you're measured against. When deciding on an investment, investors evaluate popular success metrics such as user growth, retention rates, and MRR (monthly re-occurring revenue).
Setup informal chats with potential investors to validate the primary metric your start-up will be measured against. Note this will vary based on your stage, who you plan to pitch, and the type of start up. It may not end up being the metric you thought it would be going in.
We made the mistake of approaching investors too early believing we had solid user adoption, just to learn investors questioned if our users would upload receipts consistently.
In the process, we learned 10k daily receipts was the magic number to reach, and we put our heads down for the next eight months to achieve that.
At 32, you are a Millennial that manages managers, many of whom are older and more experienced than you. What advice would you offer other Millennials who are in leadership roles within their organization about managing people their senior?
Jon Brelig: Always keep in mind that mentorship and feedback are a two-way street. When managing junior members and individual contributors, the mentorship and feedback loop is primarily one-way from manager to employee.
However, as you escalate to managing senior roles, you find yourself hiring and lead a team whom all have more expertise in specific subject areas than you do. This is a positive, after all, you can't and shouldn't be the expert in everything.
Use this an opportunity to establish a bi-directional mentorship and feedback loop, providing continual context and feedback to your team while learning from them as well.