With well over a decade of experience bringing successful entrepreneurial ventures to life, Bill Balderaz is no stranger to startups. You can find him co-hosting Health Wanted at Startup Week Columbus, showcasing 20 entrepreneurs building health & wellness companies.

 

 
Bill Balderaz: Healthy, Well & Wise
By Terreece Clarke, May 2nd, 2016

It’s almost time for Columbus Startup Week and you can smell the entrepreneurship in the air. For five days -- May 2nd through May 6th -- entrepreneurs around Central Ohio will swap information, innovative business practices and a few startup war stories with some of the brightest minds in the state. IT Martini sat down with passionate innovator Bill Balderaz, president and founder at Futurety, to talk about his path to entrepreneurship and Columbus Startup Week.

“As long as I thought about having a career, like around Junior High, it [entrepreneurship] was something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Balderaz said. “I started taking entrepreneurship classes in high school and always had a passion for it. Someone said that they like the idea of creating something from dust, solving a problem...I love that I get to do that.”

The true ‘aha moment’ for Balderaz came when he started working for the startup Energy.com during the first dot-com boom.

“The internet was just getting started and this company was all about creating a dot-com environment in Columbus. Day two, I sat there (and there was so much energy, excitement and Nerf guns) and said ‘This is what I want to do.’”

Mentorship is Key to Successful Entrepreneurship

Balderaz contends that his path to entrepreneurship was made possible not just by his passion, but by the mentors he had along the way including Pam Springer, Carol Clark and Mike Morgan -- three of his bosses that supported and encouraged his entrepreneurial interests.

“I worked for each at a time when [their companies] were going through major transitions, acquiring equity lines, etc. A Harvard MBA couldn’t teach you what I learned from them during those times - and then they we gracious enough to mentor me. They became my first clients. I was given that lightning strike to work with great people who took an interest in me.”

"When I’m interviewing, I always ask, ‘What did you fail at last week?"


Failing Forward

“When I’m interviewing,” Balderaz said, “I always ask, ‘What did you fail at last week?’”

The great thing about failing as an entrepreneur, he said, is that you always learn something. Balderaz said his best failure came about when he got the great idea to license college textbooks, put them online and offer part or all of the text to students.

“It was great. We signed a deal with a publisher. We started with law books and the failure came when we didn’t have a way to get them to students because, in 2004/2005, most students didn’t have laptops. So, they would have to go online and download them to desktops.”

Balderaz said the idea was too far ahead of its time. But later, when the time was right, he was able to help publishing companies set themselves up because of the experience he had gained.

The lesson? Entrepreneurs should not be afraid to take chances.

“Learn from the failures, pivot rapidly, he said. “Know when to let go, shift and change direction. Pam Stringer always says to ‘fail fast.’ Don’t drag something out. Fail quickly and move on to the next thing.”

Another reason why Balderaz’s idea didn’t fly? The name... “Renaissance U.”

“No one can spell renaissance and the url [for the website] was a mess,” he said with a laugh.

So, where does one who has run the whole employee, owner, consultant and investor cycle think entrepreneurs are most likely to make mistakes?

“I have seen entrepreneurs get so focused on the details. They are making sure they have the right kind of chairs and a great office in this area of the city and all of this other stuff. They fail to focus on the stuff that makes the biggest impact. You haven’t earned the right to pick office chairs until you have clients and revenue.”

“Product people, will wait to release when the product is perfect. By then, the market has passed you by,” Balderaz said. “The best product doesn’t always win. If you’re really a product person, hire a CEO who understands the business and fundraising, etc., because you need to have someone looking out for the things that make that impact.”

Making and Taking the Time to Learn

Balderaz said events like Columbus Startup Week are important for entrepreneurs, even those who say they are too busy to take a week out of the office.

“The last 10 years in Columbus, it’s amazing how much the city has grown to support [entrepreneurs]. We are being recognized as a top place for minorities to start a business, a top place for women entrepreneurs, for people to start a business in general. We’ve got an infrastructure and resources that work together. That wasn’t there before.”

“Going to events like Columbus Startup Week, where you can network with all the people you want to talk to in one place, is [an example of] working on the business versus working on the product. It’s a once a year opportunity. Take it. Soak it in.”