Andrew Eye, Taskbox CEO and founder, is no stranger to the startup scene. A Maryland native, Andrew founded his first company Bodkin Consulting Group LLC in 2006. Bodkin later merged with Ciphent Inc. where Andrew became the Chief Operating Officer. In 2010, Ciphent was named #15 on the INC 500 list of Fastest Growing Companies.
Ciphent was acquired by Colorado-based Accuvant in 2010. Andrew took on the role of Vice President of Services, successfully merging the two companies and developing a cohesive global services strategy. He stayed with Accuvant for two years before making the decision to return to his roots in the startup world.
Andrew founded Taskbox, his third startup, in May of 2012 along with his CTO and co-founder, Adam Cianfichi. Andrew is an active member of the Austin technology community, and currently serves as an advisor and mentor to numerous startups throughout the area.
So my wife was from Austin, which made it really easy to come here, but the thing that attracted me most about Austin was that it's not just an exciting place to be when you're 25, it's an exciting place to be when you're 25, when you're 35 and when you're 65.
When I thought about places that have a great tech incubating scene, there's New York, there's San Francisco, but for me, those are places that are great to start a company, but they're a terrible place to raise a family and that's really unique about Austin is that we can go out and see live music, but we can also be glance he live music and bring our children. And that's not true only for us, but for every one that we bring into the company. So this is a place where people can really put down roots.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST STARTUP?
Yeah, so, my first company was a consulting firm called Ciphent, and we were an interactive marketing and information security firm, really two separate practices but information security really took off. We were fortune enough to grow that to 80 people, made the Inc. 500, and had a really good run with that.
TALK ABOUT TASKBOX.
Taskbox is an advanced mobile email client, so what we're really doing is giving you control over email by turning your inbox into a task list.
The big problem with most task managers is that no one actually ends up using them. Their intentions are good, they start off with this idea of getting organized but with every task manager on the planet after two months users drop-off in their daily usage of the product and the reason is there's a lot of maintenance for creating all those tasks.
What's unique about Taskbox is that we go where the tasks already are: your inbox. So when someone sends you an invoice, that's a task. When someone sends you an expense report to approve or when someone just asks you a question, all of those tasks come into your inbox, and we allow you to process them where they already are.
WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN TASKS AT TASKBOX?
You know, my responsibility as CEO in a really small startup just getting off the ground is twofold. First, I need to be kind of the fearless leader. My responsibility is around bringing in new talent, right? Bringing in the influential people who can really take us to the next level.
The other piece today is about product management so just setting the vision for what is it that that product needs to do, where are we headed. But those will be my roles long-term. So, today it's really about bring in the right team to take on those responsibilities and leading the vision for the product right out of the gate.
The big difference in running a product company versus running a consulting company is thinking in terms of really the long term. When you're building a professional services firm, you know that you're bringing in people, you're developing their talents, really you're always looking at any individual person coming in the company as typically only being there for three years tops.
When we're building out a product company? We want people to be with us for 10, 15, 30 years. We want people to make a career out of being at Taskbox. And so recruiting really changes in the way we evaluate people.
TALK ABOUT FUNDING TASKBOX.
Some of our investors I met through my own personal network, which is kind of the standard way of doing things, but we had a real leg up by being at the Capital Factory. Our investors actually came to us. And in fact, after having done a pitch at the Capital Factory, I had an investor show up in shorts and t-shirt the next day and say hey, would you mind giving me the pitch again.
So you know, it's really that magic of being at this central hub of all this startup activity that I don't need to go out and, you know, try to get interviews with these folks. I don't need to go out and try to, you know, beat them over the head or walk into their office? Those are, those investors that are looking for deal flow are coming to us. So, it was a simple as walking around the corner.
HOW IS THE AUSTIN TALENT POOL?
So the talent pool Austin is fantastic. Between the University of Texas and the other great colleges within driving distance from here, we get a lot of great young talent. I think one of the challenges is that talent is so over-pursued. There's a lot of great engineers, there's a lot of great business development people, but unfortunately there's a lot of competition as well, so we've also had a lot of success in recruiting outside of Austin. I think for us, that's another reason to have our company here in Austin, because this is a place people want to come.
TALK ABOUT SOME OF YOUR TECH HEROES
The people I really look up to in entrepreneurial circles are those people who've had such a strong vision for their product or their service that they're willing to turn down incredible offers. So,Jeff Bezos at Amazon or Mark Benioff at Salesforce.com, or Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. These are guys who not only built amazing companies and amazing products, but turned down offer after offer.
And that's what's most exciting to me about Mark Zuckerberg is not what he was able to build, but the fact that Mark's vision was so clear that it never even crossed his mind to, to take the big payday. For him it was all about seeing through the vision and his ability to stick with that over time was really amazing.
ANY ADVICE FOR ENTREPRENEURS JUST STARTING OUT?
The most important advice I'd give to young entrepreneurs or people just getting started, I guess there are two things I always encourage people to do. The first is do your homework.
I find so many people that have an idea that start to run with it for weeks or months and they really haven't done their market research to determine if somebody else is already done that thing.
The other thing that I would encourage people to do is just do is just really focus on networking. And the ability to reach out to people that you would never think you could touch and to just reach out to them over a LinkedIn and say, listen I know something about you, this is who I am, and could I please, you know, pick your brain for 10 minutes on the phone.
You know, it's so easy to do that today and people are so much more receptive to that type of phone call than you would think, so I think that's a huge advantage that entrepreneurs have today, particularly young entrepreneurs that show that ambition. I can tell you that I'd take that phone call from anyone who makes it.
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