August 27, 2013
This post is an entrepreneur interview with Derick Downs, the founder and CEO of BidsList. Here he tells readers how he got started and outlines some valuable advice and start-up lessons for new entrepreneurs.
Cynthia: What is BidsList? Why did you start this company and what gave you the spark of inspiration behind BidsList?
Derick: BidsList is a platform for consumers to pair with verified professionals. BidsList has a patent pending process titled: system and method for providing certification and project estimates. We only allow business members who have completed our verification process to participate in placing bids on posted consumer projects. BidsList provides consumers with a tool that allows them to obtain multiple bids on the same project, which then creates bids placed from our verified professionals.
I got the spark of inspiration during the time I was working with my father at Downs Lighting in 2009. The construction industry was becoming slow, and jobs were getting scarce. As a landscape lighting expert, I realized I was the last professional on the job during all new construction. Many customers had plans for a variety of future upgrades that weren’t done at the time of original construction due budget considerations. Since lightning is at the end of a project, I realized we could have more customers if there was a way to I could help them control the entire project budget from the beginning.
First Steps for Beginning a Start-Up
Cynthia: What were the first steps in going from the idea to actually starting the company?
Derick: My first steps were to research everything. I wanted a name that I could have on all social media pages, websites, and mobile apps. I then found the name BidsList available and purchased all domains, social accounts, and even filed for the trademark.
At the time, I was working at Sony Electronics. There I created a program and process to manually bill clients during the conversion to SAP software. I worked with several outsourcing companies from India to build the software needed. Suddenly, I realized I could outsource any idea I wanted on my own time, and began to work 24/7 on transforming BidsList into a reality.
Launch and Strategy Change
Cynthia: Did you devise any experiments to prove out your product idea or business models first?
Derick: By initial launch, I had a much more complex process. I would create contracts for each project, facilitate funds, and provide a dispute resolution process in case any problems would arise. To my luck I was able to successfully complete all projects with no complaints. I was carrying a lot of risk at the beginning. If something were to go wrong it would have been a huge legal mess since I created the contracts and facilitated the project. When I spoke with some others about the idea, they enlighten me that in order to scale the business model I would need to replicate myself by 100 people. I knew this was impossible so I decided to work with others to figure out the best business model. Once we had the model in place, I had the website recreated, and we are currently working on the next version of our mobile apps.
7 Start-Up Lessons and Tips
Cynthia: What are some helpful tips for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Derick: I have several tips for start-ups.
- Ask everybody you encounter to give an honest opinion of your business. No matter if it’s going to sting or not, the only way to know what others truly think is to ask the truth, or ask a 3rd party who doesn’t know you at all.
- Don’t get overexcited and launch too early. I’m one who likes to run before I walk. If I would have slowed down I could have saved myself a full year of research and development I didn’t think about scaling upfront, but I should have and scaling made me change my original approach. But making mistakes is all part of the learning curve so don’t get upset if you do.
- Get multiple bids from every person you hire. Just like going to the shopping mall to pick out shoes. Check every other source you have before making a decision on who to hire or what partners to engage. When you leave your job and have no immediate income, every penny counts.
- Join start up communities to see what others are doing. It’s hard to go into a start up without getting good ideas on how to proceed after launch. Sources like LinkedIn, CrunchBase, Angel List, and other startup communities help me figure out the latest technology trends, start-ups, and products out there.
- Start with a business plan first. This helps you map out your plan, and figure out any other hurdles you might not have thought of. I used a service called LivePlan which allows you to easily make business plans that look professional, and contain examples of what others have done on their plans. As much as I didn’t think I need one, once i wanted to raise capital, everybody wants to see what your plan is.
- Get advice from other start-ups. Get out there and network and mingle. Talk to others about what they are doing. You will be amazed at how many of them become your best clients and good friends. You will build relationships with like-minded people doing like-minded things.
- Find a girlfriend, boyfriend or marriage partner that is willing to put up with you. Find somebody who is going to help your businesses instead of distract you from it. I had to go through several girlfriends before I found one who was willing to hear me talk about the same things over and over and over again. If you can’t find somebody who is willing to help or listen, then get ready to handle a hurdle that will end up affecting your drive.
Filed under: Entrepreneur Interviews