Bob Summers – Mentor and Speaker at SWBlacksburg

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Introducing Bob Summers who will be one of the speakers and mentors for Startup Weekend in Blacksburg. Bob took some time to answer a few short questions to introduce himself and his experience.

What is your background in relation to startups.

Founder of five startups, funder of several and evangelist of many startups.  Started in 1998 while finishing my computer engineering degree @ VT.  I started nanoCom Corporation from an apartment in Sundance Village.  With a 56 kbps modem and 2 other student employees we created a company which would reach over 3 million people and create over 60 jobs.  Revenue in the first year was $250k.  It was the first Internet related startup founded in Blacksburg which reached global scale.  I chose Blacksburg over other places because of its quality of life and talent.

Why are you excited for Startup Weekend in Blacksburg? 
This event will kick off a week of celebrating entrepreneurship in Blacksburg.  I cannot think of a better way to spend the weekend than watching the creative spark across a dozen or more teams.   This spark is my drug of choice and I am excited for a massive dose.

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
All three are required for success.  If you ever come and present your company to me I am going to be listening to hear all three of these.  What I would offer up here is the order in which a startup should think through these.  The order of importance is market, team and product.  It is measured in the form of receiving a measure of traction (validates market), such as a preorder or contract to build a piece of the product/tech.  This is followed by building the right team to further build out the product.  With these three in place you may need outside investment to grow and in a good position to do so.

What would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?
Traction.  Traction. Traction.  I know of no successful company from Blacksburg which started with a free product.  Traction in most cases means revenue from a customer, a commitment to buy when built, page views, daily usage or investment.   Understand the customer and how to sell them.