Positioning of a crisis into an opportunity and turning a fortuity into fortune have been the verticals of Stacey Ferreira’s entrepreneurial journey.
She left for Los Angeles, California at the age of eighteen to build her first startup MySocialCloud. Later, on receiving seed capital from Richard Brason and Jerry Murdoch of Inside Venture Partners, she began her bon voyage.
NYC based entrepreneur and CEO of Forrge, Stacey Ferreira talks about beginning her journey in the startup industry, scaling up a startup and building an organisational structure in a company.
Highlights of this Episode
- A computer crash turning into an inspiration to build a million dollar startup.
- Turning a tweet from Richard Branson to a $ 1.2 Mn seed capital investment.
- Keeping an eye on the smallest subsets of the company.
Quotes and Takeaways
- When you get a bunch of people who are excited about an idea together, it is magical. It is like all these people going towards this common goal together.
- On hiring the right people to build organisational structure.
What gravitated you towards pursuing entrepreneurship?
When I was first starting up, I did not even know that entrepreneurship was even a word (laughs). My brother and I were learning how to build programme in high school because we played a lot of video games and we wanted to build our own games! We started researching on it. That is when I realized we have to learn how to code if we have to build a computer game. When I was in my senior year of high school my brother had a computer crash as an affect of which the most important thing he lost was his excel spreadsheets with his passwords.
That is when we decided why don’t we build something where people can store all their usernames and passwords online and acquire a auto login everywhere with the same username and passwords. We decided to work on it that summer which was placed between between high school and college.
Later, we went to our parents and announced it to them. They told us that’s great but that we had to move out of the house and be financially independent. So at 18 years old, I packed my bags and I moved to LA, California with my brother. We spent that summer building that project, MySocialCloud.
How did you first encounter with Richard Branson, who later invested in seed capital of MySocialCloud?
That summer I saw a tweet from Richard Branson, (2011). So the tweet went like meet me at Miami for a cocktail and donate $ 2000 for charity. The tweet also provided an email address.
So I replied to that tweet saying that, “Hey I’m not legally allowed to drink in the US but my brother and I would love to come and ask you questions about entrepreneurship and ask your advice on the company that we are working on”.
After my tweet to him, we got an email back from secretary saying that if we both can donate $ 4000 ($ 2000 per person) and be in Miami in 48 hours then we could meet Richard Branson.
My brother and I were broke. We did the only thing which we could think of, which was to call our parents to ask for the money. We told them the opportunity and asked them if we could borrow $ 4000. My dad, on the other end of the phone said, “Write a proposal for me. Where do you need the money, why do you need the money and how do you plan to pay me back”.
I got two options, either to take a loan of $ 4000 to replenish them in 3 months or I do not take the loan.
We took the loan and flew to Miami. When we reached the cocktail party, we asked Branson for his email address.
After we flew back to Los Angeles, we sent him the prototype of MySocialCloud to ask for his advice on the product. He connected us with Jerry Murdoch who runs Inside Venture Partners, which is a VC firm. Jerry flew in to meet us about a week later and that night Jerry announced that he, Branson and Alex will invest $1.2 Mn as the seed capital.
That started our entrepreneurial journey.
At the nascent stage of a company, what are the KPIs to lookout for?
It is always great to start from a problem. Acquiring constant validation of people that I need is another KPI. Keep thinking about all of the products which help us grow and what are all the KPIs they had with their product. When we first started, we envisioned how the website would look, how it would function, if people clicked certain buttons what would that lead them to.
How important are the smallest subsets of company?
I would say they are everything. The little pieces are things which turn into actually making your business. As consumers we are inundated with new products. Hence, to enrich your product experience focusing on such subsets are much important.
It differs for every market. Doing a research around where do your target market live, what are the things which they pay attention to, what are the things that get them to act, what makes people take that next step that is needed.
If you are going after a market for millennials, that will be very different as opposed to a market for people who are middle aged. A lot of these times the details are overlooked but it should not be. The details are what make the product.
As a leader of your company, how do you lead as a CEO? How do you Build an organisational culture?
Making sure you are hiring the right people. It makes sure whether your company succeeds or fails. I truly believe that it is the people that you bring on board that make your company. Hire the kinds of people that fit the culture that you want and be the leader towards that.
A lot of times, you will find that people hire others who emulate their personality. As the leader, be careful and cautious of how you are leading other people.
For myself, hiring people has been the most thrilling experience. Very recently, someone will be joining my team. I found him when I was trying to find an extra couch to crash on when I went to San Francisco to raise funds. I can’t believe someone believes so much in my idea that he is significantly changed his path of life to come work with me!
When you get a bunch of people who are excited about an idea together, it is magical. It is like all these people going towards this common goal together.
How has been your experience of being a woman entrepreneur?
We are growing up in a very great time. There has never been a better time to be a female entrepreneur. Maybe I have been lucky, but I have not confronted any discrimination against myself for being a woman. There is more quality today than ever before. There is more equality today than ever before. And I would take that as an opportunity. The internet and technology did a brilliant job in leveling the playing field for everyone involved.
What is your message for entrepreneurs?
Focus. I would say the biggest thing is focus. In entrepreneurship, you always have a million ideas and it is easy to get distracted. Pick one idea that you love, that you cannot stop thinking about. And make sure know how to get from A to B to Z. And then just execute on that relentlessly.