And maybe a lousy website. For Diego Orjuela, 35, of Orlando's Cables and Sensors, finding funding mattered less than finding the perfect market opportunity and filling it with products and service that big competitors couldn't match. Who needs VC money? It's having customers with money that really matters.

--As told to Deirdre van Dyk

When I started Cables and Sensors, I was at my lowest financial point. I had already spent millions to get one business off the ground. For another, I'd used a quarter million. For this one, I used negative dollars. I was in debt. I think I started with $100.

We're led to believe we should go to a C round, spend tons of money, and get fancy offices and equipment. You lose sight of reality in Silicon Valley--most of those companies are losing money and failing. What worked for me was having nothing. It made me hungry. I realized I had to go after a client that had money. I came upon an idea when I was helping my father with his business: reselling medical equipment he'd bought from the VA. The problem was, when the hospitals sold the equipment, they destroyed the sensors and cables, for cross-contamination reasons. There was no easy way of replacing them. You had to go through GE or Philips. Which took time. You had to send a fax.

I was fascinated with Amazon and its model--products that are small to ship, that you can buy without touching, and that don't expire. Sensors are very lightweight. They can sit on the shelf and not expire. I identified a problem and solved it. And it was a market with resources and money. Most of my business is through dealers and midsize and large organizations. We get the crumbs off the table, which is enough. We can move swiftly, and we can adapt. We are nimble and lightweight. You can place an order at 4:30 in the afternoon and get our product the next day. The bigger guys can't do that.

Starting with very little capital, it's important to choose how to spend. Rather than hire a developer to make a perfect website, I started with a crappy site. Do people need all the bells and whistles? I got the most growth by working hard every single day.

It's been 100 percent growth year-over-year. We shipped from a friend's garage, and then moved into an industrial workspace. We have a couple of clients that are parts dealers. They were buying from multiple suppliers. Some just saw that we were outstanding and made us their exclusive supplier. Dealers tell us we're different, we ship faster and answer questions quickly, and our product is superior. One customer told us he was scoring each supplier and we stood out. We proved to them what we are capable of.

 

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