Greg is one of the founders of Rafflecopter, a dead simple way to host giveaways on your website. Rafflecopter makes it easy to launch and manage a giveaway for any brand, on any website, as much as you want, with no I.T. help required.
RFZ: Can you tell us a little background about how you decided to start Rafflecopter?
Greg: At the time, I was working with my cofounders on a project that would make it easy for bloggers to embed an ecommerce store into their site and display products in their store that are based around the interest of their users. Basically a third party affiliate storefront service. As the ‘non-technical’ cofounder, it was my job to find first time users and perform general customer development.
After a good several months of talking to users who we thought would be good beta testers, we started learning some of their pain points. Turns out what we were working on wasn’t all that interesting to them. But a common pain point we found was running giveaways — there wasn’t any good solution for bloggers to run a giveaway promotion at the time. We assessed the situation, stopped what we were doing and came out with an MVP of Rafflecopter in a few months to see what would happen. That was back in early 2011… it’s been sweet love ever since 😉
RFZ: What was your very first start-up and how did becoming a first time entrepreneur affect your personal finances?
Greg: Rafflecopter is actually our first startup, but I was fortunate to have four years of working at other internet related companies prior to starting Rafflecopter. That experience helped, but it also helped that I was very frugal during those years. I was able to scrounge together enough money to have a year or so of runway when I left my full-time job. I also had a side consulting business with several ecommerce clients that helped pay the bills.
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To say that starting this company affected my personal finances is an understatement. I was relatively comfortable when I left my 9-5 job in 2010, but was hurting two years later. I slowly moved away from my consulting business six months after starting Rafflecopter and begun focusing all of my time on it. Rafflecopter is a freemium app now, but from when we first launched in May 2011, we didn’t make any money since we were offering the service for free. It was only in November 2012 when we released paid features.
We were forced to be pretty scrappy — our diets in the three months leading up to the launch of the paid features consisted of Kroger brand cereals, hot dogs, pop tarts, and ramen noodles. We still argue who has the best technique to microwave a hot dog 😉
RFZ: During the early stages of the business, were you paying yourself salary? If not, how did you manage to get by?
Greg: We didn’t pay ourselves a salary until maybe 30 months after starting the company. As relatively recent college grads trying to fund their own startup, I don’t think that’s too uncommon. That’s just the way she goes.
We managed to get by though. The three of us lived in the same apartment. We shared groceries, shared our vehicles, engaged in hobbies that didn’t require a lot of money, and worked non-stop. We were pretty much all-in and sacrificed quite a bit to get by. At one point I was considering selling my car, but fortunately it never came to that 😉
RFZ: Did you do any odd jobs to make extra cash on the side?
Greg: No particular side jobs come to mind. Sold some things on Craigslist to scrape together some money. On the rare occasion we’d do a side project if it was quick and easy and brought in some funds. But nothing too serious.
RFZ: What was the craziest giveaway you saw at Rafflecopter?
Greg: To celebrate Memorial Day last year, a company gave away $3,000 worth of meat so they could create an epic grill out. That was a little nuts — not sure what I’d do with all that meat if I had it shipped to my apartment.
We’ve had Arnold Schwarzenegger use Rafflecopter a handful of times. In one instance, the prize was to have him create a voicemail recording for your phone. The winner got to write the script. I thought that was pretty creative.
RFZ: Floyd Mayweather just walked away with $180M for his recent fight with Pacquiao. What would be your first big purchase if you made $180M?
Greg: I’d buy my Uncle a pre-war Martin D-28 acoustic guitar. Martin Dreadnoughts are the definitive bluegrass guitar and only get better with age (pre-war means the guitar was made before WWII). I think I’d finally be able to comfortably afford one with $180M 😉
RFZ: As Rafflecopter continues to grow and expand, I’m sure you’ll be hiring in the near future. What’s the single biggest advice you can give to job seekers looking to join start-up tech companies?
Greg: The qualities that I look for in job candidates is their ability to multi-task, their ability to work independently, their level of initiative, and how strong their work ethic is.
Rafflecopter is just shy of 10 employees — we’re not a large company. If you’re working at company of this size, you have to possess those qualities since you’ll probably be wearing many hats. You’ll be expected to perform many duties outside your job role. You’ll have to figure out a lot of stuff on your own. Everyone else at the company is too busy to hold your hand.
My advice to job seekers applying to smaller startup companies like ours would be to put yourself in the founder’s shoes before applying and figure out what they’re looking for in a candidate. Consider giving past examples of how your fantastic work ethic benefitted another company you worked for. Describe a past situation or problem you faced, the actions you took, and the results you achieved.
We love seeing side projects or passion projects too. That’s always a plus.
Since we have a few open positions currently, we probably get five resumes a day. It’s always apparent when an applicant hasn’t researched your company. Those resumes go in the trash. Learn about the company you’re applying to so you can talk intelligently about the problems they might be facing, or the industry they’re in, or their competitors in the space.
I think the answer to this question will differ depending on how large and how mature the startup is. If you’re applying to a startup with 200+ employees, I’d imagine they’d put more focus on your skillset.