Felicite Moorman – Co-Founder & CEO, STRATIS

Felicite Moorman is an award-winning technology entrepreneur and attorney with over twenty-five years of experience in founding and building companies. She’s an EY Entrepreneur of the Year® Award recipient, and has earned an international reputation as a go-to Internet of Things (IoT) industry expert, developing pioneering strategic partnerships and unprecedented technology strategies and initiatives in the Internet of Things.

Moorman is the co-founder and CEO of STRATIS and CEO of BuLogics, companies that invent groundbreaking global IoT solutions. STRATIS is a SaaS platform for access, energy, and automation management and control for multifamily and student housing in Smart Cities. BuLogics designs, builds, and certifies ZWave, ZigBee, BTLE, WiFi, and LoRa devices and solutions for the Internet of Things.

Moorman is an international speaker and columnist and has been featured in Inc., Entrepreneur, and Fast Company magazines, Business Insider, U.S. News & World Report, Yahoo! Finance, and other national news outlets.

Prior to BuLogics and STRATIS, Moorman launched the Emerging Technologies Division for GE’s Consumer and Home Electronics brand. Moorman quickly established her reputation in technology, engaging eight Fortune 500 companies in less than eighteen months, entering new vertical channels, and creating and executing the strategic plan to dominate the Internet of Things home automation market. Today, the GE device line is a part of nearly every home automation and security platform offered in the United States.

How did the concept for STRATIS come about?
STRATIS was created to fill the gap in some of the most complex hardware installations in the world. We found that we just couldn’t “do it all” with hardware, and as hardware junkies, my co-founder and I knew we were going to have to expand our capabilities via software.

We got a call to fix a 300-unit installation of multifamily units (apartments) on a large campus, and we simply couldn’t give the property owner the control that he needed to enable energy efficiencies and maintain resident comfort and privacy with our hardware offering alone. That’s when we started developing a complementary software that is now one of the most complete IoT Platforms in the world, STRATIS!

How was the first year in business?
The first year in business was actually a lot of fun. STRATIS was a side-hustle, and that made all the difference. We were inventing a solution from scratch, in real-time, and fixing people’s real problems, receiving accolades and awards. We really began to understand our market and what our offering needed to look like. It wasn’t until more recently, when we started scaling, in growth mode, that the dynamic shifted. The pressures of perfection are far greater than they were at the beginning, when we were trying new things. I loved that first year.

What was your marketing strategy?
That first year, it was all about word-of-mouth marketing and networking. We didn’t have any relationships to push, not press, public relations, or otherwise. We had nothing. Our entire strategy centered on meeting people who had problems that we knew we could solve and leaning in to that word-of-mouth marketing strategy. I think we had, maybe, three collaterals at the beginning.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We started STRATIS as an energy management system and iterated to provide a more complete building management system for multifamily and student housing. Our focus was more on creating the product than shipping the product in our second year as a company. Once we actually had a product that we could confidently install in the marketplace, STRATIS took off.

How do you define success?
Every day that we save resources in this very complex market is a day of success for our world. That’s not nearly enough for me to define my own success, though. My successful day is when I have expended every ounce of my potential, efficiently and effectively.

The definition of success for STRATIS as a company is being ubiquitously installed across the globe in every single building in which we can have a positive impact at the most reasonable cost and fastest return on investment.

What is the key to success?
Everyone has to define their own version of success in order to know what their key is. I can’t provide it for everyone, but I can say that your team is everything: capabilities and possibilities, and working harder is an absolute necessity in entrepreneurship. I think the saying goes, “I’ll work 80 hours a week to not work 40 hours a week for someone else,” and that’s just true for me.

But in addition to being aware of that and embracing that, find ways to work smarter. Working harder is a given, so pause from time to time and determine if you’re also working smarter.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I learn new lessons every day and I probably have a “Top Five Greatest Lessons Learned as an Entrepreneur,” but one that may be the most important is this: when things are hard, having a co-founder or team that accepts you showing vulnerability, so that you’re not devastatingly alone in your journey, makes those really hard times bearable. Find a compatible, complementary co-founder and build a team that cares about you as a human and embraces your strengths, but also acknowledges and accepts your weaknesses, and complements them with their own strengths.

What are some quotes that you live by?
My quote of the moment is John Lennon’s, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

What are some of your favorite books?
I have hundreds of favorite books. I’m a fairly-voracious reader. A life-changing book for me was Seth Godin’s Linchpin. I read it at a time when I needed permission to re-engage in entrepreneurship after a brief stint as an employee.

Right now, I’m reading Blitzscaling, The Messy Middle, Dare to Lead, and Fooled by Randomness.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Low cash days are hard. When you don’t know yet where your next paycheck, or worse, your team’s paychecks are coming from, those days can be profound challenges. But they also provide clarity in determining your commitment to your path, and your journey, and your “why.”

Hard days are good days. They are that which causes us to iterate and improve, so that whatever has happened, doesn’t happen again.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My team is absolutely what keeps me going when the stuff hits the fan.

I don’t know how solo founders do it, and I will never be a solo founder again. I am so grateful for our leadership team. I am so grateful for our support team, our engineers, and our marketing team; every single person here is someone who I need. And not just at this company, but I need to work with these people for the rest of my life. If that’s not inspiration, not motivation, I don’t know what is. I’m motivated to work with these specific people, forever, and that is a profound realization, and blessing.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
1) Find a co-founder with complementary skills, and perhaps, temperament.

2) Don’t be afraid to share your idea. Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.

3) Don’t buy into the hype around venture capital.

4) The end of a journey is somewhat anticlimactic. Please make sure that you enjoy this as much and as frequently as possible. I hate to say that it’s about the journey, but entrepreneurship is as hard as anything I’ve ever done (and I’ve had three kids). Make sure you make time to appreciate even small accomplishments as you go.

Neeraj Singh – Founder & CEO, BigBinary

Neeraj Singh is the founder and CEO of BigBinary, a Ruby on Rails development agency based out of San Francisco and Pune, India, and is one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies in America.

BigBinary’s work has ranged from launching startups to scaling technology in fast-growing companies. Having clients across all industries, from EdTech and logistics, to health care and payment processing, companies trust BigBinary because of its work ethic and track record of building high-quality software.

The BigBinary team includes some of the leading Ruby on Rails and React developers in the world. Four of the top one hundred open-source contributors to Ruby on Rails are a part of the BigBinary team and they regularly speak at conferences worldwide.

BigBinary is a strong advocate of open-source culture and its team members have contributed to many leading open-source projects including Ruby on Rails, jQuery, React.js, jQuery, Sinatra, Backbone.js, ActiveMerchant, and many more. In addition to open-source contributions, Neeraj and his team regularly publish industry-acclaimed blogs and podcasts.

Neeraj earned his BE in Mechanical Engineering in India. He received his Master’s in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.

Neeraj and his team have fully-embraced remote work culture, where all 60+ team members of BigBinary work remotely worldwide.

How did the concept for BigBinary come about?
I worked for various companies where I did not find the work to be fulfilling. The work involved many useless meetings, bad software development experiences, and working on unrealistic deadlines.

So I decided to be a freelancer. While I did not initially set out to build a company, I registered the BigBinary.com domain and the company for legal protection.

How was the first year in business?
The first year of business was pretty underwhelming. I had only one client and I was busy trying to ensure the client was happy with my work. At the tail-end of the first year, I brought on one more client. At that time, my billing rate was extremely low so I had to work for both clients to meet my financial needs. I was putting in crazy hours just to stay afloat.

What was your marketing strategy?
I dislike sending cold emails, so targeted email marketing was out of the question. To build trust with potential clients and to contribute to the Ruby on Rails community, I learned how to make screencasts and started creating videos on how Ruby on Rails actually works under the hood. It was a lot of work, but the videos became popular and ended up helping me find my next set of clients. I then began writing technical blogs, which, in my opinion, together with videos, were a much more effective and high-quality form of marketing.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We started off growing 10-20%, year-over-year.

How do you define success?
Profitability is success for a bootstrapped business. Beyond that, running a good, ethical business and standing up for the right values is success.

What is the key to success?
I’m still figuring this out. What I can say is that having a successful business without the underpinnings of strong ethics is not success to me.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Even unreasonable people are reasonable from their own point of view. Sometimes, it takes more patience and more digging to fully understand another’s point of view. Building empathy for a contradictory point of view is hard, but essential to lead a team.

Also, it is preferable to not have any work with bad clients. A single bad client can ruin the mood for the whole day and is bad for team morale. Now I pay much more attention to the type of clients I want to work with.

One challenge I have as a leader is sandboxing my personal mental state. In any given day, I speak with employees, clients, or potential sales leads, and inevitably, some of the calls do not go very well. While frustrating, the experience should not affect my next meeting or affect the rest of the day. The participants of my next meeting should always be treated with respect, regardless of how bad the last call went. While it has been a challenge to compartmentalize my emotions, it is something I strive to improve every day.

In addition, as an organization leader, I need to be both rigid and flexible at the same time – rigid to core principles and flexible on execution. However, in the real world, lines tend to blur, making decisions difficult sometimes.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“You are what you do repeatedly.” – Jason Fried

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” – Steve Jobs

What are some of your favorite books?
Rashmi Rathi by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird & Martin J. Sherwin

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
At the end of Q3 2017, while crunching the numbers, I found that the company was running on a loss. Our revenue had not grown, while expenses had increased significantly. I knew some serious changes were needed to bring the company back to profitability, but for an entire week, I struggled to find a solution to the problem. That was a bad week.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My belief that the only thing I control is what I do and how I react to the situation. I can’t always control the circumstances and the outcome. Sometimes, the outcome will be desirable. Sometimes not. But if I always do my best, I will have the satisfaction of having done so.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Be good. Do good. Be a misfit. Stand up for your values. Question everything.

Harvinder Singh – Founder & CEO, Bestica

Harvinder Singh is the president and CEO of a successful and profitable IT consulting firm with clients that include Fortune 500 companies, as well as city, state, and government entities.

He has a Master’s degree in marketing and has been very successful in managing Bestica for the past fourteen years, experiencing rapid growth of over 800% in the last few years, with revenue approaching $15 million.

He is very involved in giving back to the community and is an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Toastmasters, Greater Chamber of Commerce, IT Cyber Committee, North San Antonio Chamber, FBI Citizens Academy, AFCEA, and the Jobs for Vets Committee.

How did the concept for Bestica come about?
I always had a very entrepreneurial mindset and the company I was working with didn’t have too much interest in growing the recruiting and staffing business I was managing. With my desire to grow the business, and realizing that there would be a huge growth market for usability and user experience design, I started a business specializing in user experience design staffing for Fortune 500 companies.

How was the first year in business?
The first year was mainly one client who was aware of my potential and gave me some tough staffing positions to fill. I also ventured out and sold to companies like Yahoo! and Bloomberg, as well as some other clients. It was a lot of growth for me personally the first year, as I was pretty much doing everything, including marketing, sales, recruiting, payroll, relationship management, and HR.

What was your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy at that time was to find an article about a company in The Wall Street Journal and send to its managers, letting them know I specialize in usability and user experience design, and that I have Fortune 500 clients. At that time, most recruiters didn’t even know what usability and UX design was, so I got the ear of managers. I built a huge database of UX designers and provided them with a platform to discuss UX issues on our website. We would have UX blogs and webinars written and presented to UX designers (by UX designers) for free. We would collaborate with UX conferences to advertise their conferences to our target audience, and in return, get a free booth at the conferences. This allowed us to market our services both to clients and candidates to present there.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Our first year, we did around $250,000 in business, our second year was $1 million, and our third year was around $2 million. Then, we got stable where our revenues ranged from $2 million to $3 million for a few years until we scaled up again after a few years and now we are at $15 million in revenue.

How do you define success?
Unlimited desire to achieve in both your personal and business life, and contributing your talent and wealth towards the benefit of the community that you desire to serve.

What is the key to success?
Immerse yourself in identifying what will make you successful, and then learning and executing those things.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
In order to grow a business and continue to be successful in managing it, you have to continue to grow yourself at the same pace as your company is growing, or even more.

What are some of your favorite books?
Good to Great, A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, and Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
When my main client, who was 80% of our business at that time, told me that they are moving their business to larger companies.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Growing up, I was not very hardworking and not very good with my studies either. We were also not rich. This lead me to be very resourceful in making sure that I can get things done for cheap. My parents and grandparents both were full of optimism and service, which lead me to accept rejection, but to also keep trying.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Get some experience under your belt with some great entrepreneurial companies before starting out on your own. When you do start on your own, open your mind to ideas and suggestions from the market, coaches, and other entrepreneurs to help you be successful, even if it means drifting yourself from your original vision a little bit to adjust to market realities.

Allex Pollak – Founder & CEO, ParaDocs Worldwide

Alex Pollak is a NYC paramedic with more than years of 911 experience, and was also a first responder to the 9/11 attacks. He holds an MBA in finance and international business, and is currently enrolled in an MPH program for healthcare management. In addition, Pollak is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt-certified and has spearheaded many consulting projects within the healthcare industry. In 2011, while working in finance for a national ambulance company, Pollak identified a void in the market for quality on-site event medicine. That’s how he founded ParaDocs Worldwide, Inc. which is a nationally-recognized brand with more than 1,600 employees.

How did the concept for ParaDocs come about?
It all started from a chance encounter on a subway. My cousin overheard two ladies fretting about where they will find a last-minute paramedic for their fashion show that weekend and he gave them my contact information. I worked that show myself and later was asked if I can cover more events. I purchased insurance and some equipment and never looked back.

How was the first year in business?
Rough, but that was only for the first few years. I needed to work much harder and longer hours at my other jobs just to cover payroll. With no outside investment and no real mentorship, it was hard to see ParaDocs evolving into a full-time career. There were many instances where real life and bills got in the way and I almost felt like giving up. Up until about two years ago, we didn’t really see a profit; everything was poured into capital investments.

What was your marketing strategy?
I didn’t have a clearly-defined marketing strategy. I tried some SEO and Google Adwords, but mostly I would keep a pocket full of business cards and any time I passed a location such as a movie set, club, or event space, I would repeatedly run into venues and introduce myself and ParaDocs, and hand over a card. One of our first big clients had their headquarters down the block from where I lived; it took three times a week for almost a year of dropping off my card to get a face-to-face meeting. These days, we get requests for interviews quite often so we aren’t an unknown entity anymore. Marketing has become more organic due to our constant exposure through media outlets.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Fast. This was basically an untapped market so we realized exponential growth those first few years. We are still realizing significant growth. Thankfully, it has not stagnated as clients are coming to discover a real need for our services.

How do you define success?
Success is relative and I’m still unsure how to define it. We are constantly trying to improve and streamline, especially in a line of work as important as ours. Until I see a red shirt in every arena and event in the country, I won’t be convinced we are a success.

What is the key to success?
Perseverance and not letting people keep you down. If you believe in yourself, your team, and what you have to offer, chances are you have a good shot at success.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Not everything goes exactly as planned and you can’t always prepare for it. In our field, we are constantly adjusting on the fly and no matter how much you prepare for every conceivable scenario, one will come along that will floor you. Having a good grasp on what went well and what needs improvement is key. We create a detailed After Action Report after every large event and we are not timid about admitting what went wrong, where we could have done better, and address it head on.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

What are some of your favorite books?
Business books. It would need to be Jim Collins’ Good To Great and Built to Last, because I make all of our management team read them. I also enjoyed Howard Shultz’s Pour Your Heart Into Itnot completely relevant, but we do pour our hearts into everything we do.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Get prepared for many tough days, because it doesn’t get easier with time. As your business grows, so does the problems. I’ve experienced so many rough days from falling in a swamp, doing a late-night rescue in the middle of a storm, dealing with local politics and media, but thankfully my many years working the streets as a paramedic has helped me hone a sort of calm demeanor when faced with disaster-like scenarios.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I am very stubborn by nature. It could be because growing up, my mom being a typical Jewish mom, would tell me there’s nothing I can’t do. Having a true passion for what you do definitely helps. I’d like to think I put together an exceptional team of like-minded individuals and having their support as a backup makes every challenge easier. Giving up at this point isn’t a decision that only affects me; I have lots of people counting on ParaDocs now, so giving up is not an option.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Believe in your product and what you have to offer. Don’t veer from your core competencies. If you have something great to offer, offer it and nothing else. It will never be perfect and if you don’t do it perfectly, someone else will, so keep working on improving your product and when its finally perfect, work on it some more.

Raj Tut – Founder & CEO, Gateway Multifamily Group

Raj Tut has acquired, transformed, and managed over $35 million in multifamily real estate throughout his 5 years of entrepreneurial experience.

Raj oversees everything at Gateway Multifamily Group, from acquisitions and dispositions to asset management and operations. His graceful mastery of multifamily’s sophisticated, yet emotionally-driven processes have enabled him to continue developing a new standard of excellence for Gateway Multifamily’s group of companies.

Raj Tut is a graduate of the University of Guelph’s Real Estate and Housing program. He is also the founder and principal of the property management company, Tut and Tut Properties.

How did the concept for Gateway Multifamily Group come about?
I named the company after the tallest structure in St. Louis but came up with the idea below ground in the basement apartment I rented while I was in college. Based on the experiences of myself and others, I realized many inefficiencies that led landlords to have horrible customer experiences and products – which would be the properties themselves.

In 2013, I left Canada and immigrated to the “land of opportunity” – ultimately opting to call the St. Louis region home. With limited resources and no connections, I started Gateway with the acquisition of a single mobile home.

How was the first year in business?
The first year was challenging. I was 22 years old and had to improve many general skills that are required to be an entrepreneur and more defined skills that are necessary to be in the multifamily space. Not a day went by where I wasn’t questioning myself and thinking of getting a 9-5.

What was your marketing strategy?
We are vertically-integrated so our in-house property management company, Tut and Tut Properties, has our marketing mainly focused on finding suitable renters for our spaces. We develop a narrative that gets woven into the fabric of each property to signal to potential renters what that property represents regarding lifestyle, safety, and other factors. Each property’s branding is unique and cohesive, from the property level to the Internet. We also leverage technology such as 3D tours, online bookings, and more to ensure the best possible leasing experience for potential renters.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
In 2013, the single property we owned had a value of $13,000. In 2018, the properties owned and managed had a value of $35 million with revenue of over $3 million. In 2019 and beyond, we’ll continue to grow and begin expanding to other cities.

How do you define success?
If you are positively contributing to society and making your world (not necessarily the world as a whole) a better place, I would say you are a successful person.

What is the key to success?
The key to success is finding your purpose in life and working extremely hard every single day to ensure you fulfill your mission. For me, it is creating the best renting experience possible for as many people as possible.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Never take someone’s word for it. Always do your due diligence and have important points in writing. I prefer to exchange emails over speaking to people on the phone when it comes to important matters so that I have it in a text format and can always refer back to it.

What are some quotes that you live by?
Entrepreneurs such as myself have to take enormous risks, not only to start businesses, but also to grow them. This Robert Kiyosaki quote keeps me going and taking calculated risks: “Don’t let the fear of losing be greater than the excitement of winning.”

What are some of your favorite books?
I don’t read as often as I would like to, but some of my favorites are The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell, How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie, and Multi-Family Millions by David Lindahl.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I don’t have a single day that sticks out in my mind, but the first year was by far the toughest. Having to wear so many hats while trying to launch your company is extremely taxing on your mind, body, and soul.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
I’ve faced much adversity. What pushes me forward is Gateway Multifamily’s purpose. I think our mission is more significant than me and is deserving of my full effort. Gateway Multifamily has one purpose: to create the best renting experience possible. We do this through a unique blend of branding, operations, and physical improvements at all of our properties. With this approach, we’ve helped thousands of renters live their lives to the fullest.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Do it for the right reasons. Very few entrepreneurs succeed unless they are truly focused on adding value to their customers and society.