Who starts startups and what can they teach us?
Since 2013 we’ve been reaching out to founders around the PNW to ask them 5 questions to gain insights and inspiration. This week we talked with Shadrach White of Airlift to find out more about being a game-changer, the value of patience, and some of the sportswear worn in DMX’s Rough Ryder Anthem music video.
1. Why do you do what you do for a living?
I have a passion for simplifying work processes for customers who have been doing work the same way for years. I love those light bulb moments when you are a part of transforming a work process and the people doing the daily work say “wow, this is so much easier” or “I can’t believe we have been doing it this way for so long, this is a game-changer.” You have just made someone’s job more pleasant and helped them experience the difference–that’s a powerful moment.
2. Why did you start your company?
The shift to cloud computing platforms and SaaS apps delivered significant cost-saving benefits and reduced risks to many startups and commercial organizations. In 2010, I wanted to help deliver the same benefits to public sector agencies that typically adopt major technology shifts much later, often years behind other entities.
3. What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from being a founder?
As a founder, you’re always juggling many different hats. The most important of those is generating and managing capital either in the form of customer revenue, funding or budgeting. Secondly, building and maintaining a strong network of people that you can count on to help you requires making yourself available when others need guidance or help, so pay it forward. Thirdly, just when you think you might quit, that it’s just too much work, that is when you have to dig deep and push yourself to finish what you started. Lastly, it’s important to set a boundary at the very beginning of your venture, a line you won’t cross. This may be financial, time invested or mounting evidence that your plan, product or service is not viable. If you make that decision and commitment before you reach that boundary, it is much easier to make a hard decision.
4. What is the one piece of advice you would share today with your younger self before she/he started your company?
Patience is your secret weapon. Many times, I have leapt before I looked, so excited to get to the destination or complete the task that I overlooked red flags in situations and more importantly people. Taking time to properly vet and evaluate anyone that will be a key player, partner or investor can save you from unwinding a bad relationship down the road. By nature, people tend to put their best look forward and often seek to fill the needs you share with them. You may not identify someone’s intentions or true nature in the early stages of building a relationship, so be patient.
5. What is something about you that people would be surprised to learn?
After reading “Heaven is a Playground” by Rick Telandar, I co-founded an urban sportswear startup focused on the history of street basketball in NYC called Rucker Park Basketball Gear. Our apparel was named one of the top 5 hottest new summer products by XXL / Source Magazine in June 1998 and featured in DMX Rough Ryder Anthem video, Black & Silver limited edition jersey worn by Styles P.