Julie Harrelson, CEO of the Harrelson Group, Fund Manager of Cascade Angels, has a beloved penchant for taking selfies with entrepreneurs, investors and people of Oregon who support building a strong Oregon through entrepreneurialism. This is a series of selfies + blogs about the amazing people she’s met in the last couple of years. Full disclosure: LeadMethod is a Cascade Angels portfolio company. #julieselfie
I first met Justin when I started Cascade Angels. I’ve had many interesting conversations with him about building companies, Bend’s ecosystem and strategies around growth and livability.
What do you think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
This is a fun one. I could go on for a while on this topic, but here are a few things that I think are important:
Grit – Starting and growing a business is hard. You’re going to get kicked in the teeth by customers, investors, partners and about anyone else that wants to shoot you down. But stay strong and have some grit, it will get you through the hard times.
Focus – It’s hard sometimes, but you have to stay focused on what you set out to build. There are lots of shiny objects ready to distract you at every turn. Now, there may be times when you need to make product or market pivots, but make sure you have strong customer or market proof before you act on the decision to change the plan.
Empathy – You’ve got to have a lot of empathy when working with employees, investors, customers, advisors and just about everyone else you work with. They’re in it right along with you. This is not a solo game; you will not have all the answers, and the minute you think you do there is a problem. Be confident, but listen (really listen) to the people working with you, supporting you and those who have been there before. Trust me, your business will go a lot farther and faster if you do.
Energy – Startups take A LOT of energy. You’ve got to dig deep to find it. Family, kids, friends… you still need to keep up with all of those, but sometimes it just takes that cup of coffee at 9 p.m. to power through and get the extra work done. But, the good news is, if your startup is working and things are going well, you’ll have all the energy in the world to keep pushing hard.
Execution – This is HUGE. Too many startups have great ideas, but fail to execute the idea or vision. And it’s understandable, coming up with ideas is the easy part, it’s building the product, hiring people, getting customers, raising money, and growing – that’s the really hard part. If you’re not good at the latter get a cofounder that is.
Why Central Oregon? What are opportunities and challenges here?
Well, Bend is as good as it gets. Quality of life, natural beauty, really smart people… the list goes on. We moved from the Puget Sound area a few years ago to grow this business in Bend, and so far it’s worked out really well. We were able to recruit some of the best people in the region, and there has been several top-notch advisors we have been able to tap into here in town. I certainly think one of the best things about building a software company here is that dozens of industry professionals from the Bay Area, Portland and Seattle who have built incredible businesses are now in Bend and ready to help.
As for challenges, well, the talent pool isn’t as large as a big city. We have been able to attract amazing people, but as we grow and need more people we will need to look more at moving people here or finding ways to cultivate local talent. Certainly something that we plan on doing.
Favorite book or beer or both?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve done a lot of novel or fiction reading lately, but as any startup founder knows it’s just not a priority. The business book that I read almost 15 years ago and continue to reference is Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm. It’s still a main playbook for tech startups wanting rapid growth.
As for beer, it’s really hard to beat a Deschutes Black Butte Porter.