An Entrepreneur’s Tale: The Growth of a Tech Business
Posted By Marisa Sanfilippo on May 12, 2017 at 7:48 am
To our readers: This is another in an occasional series by GoodCall®’s Marisa Sanfilippo on entrepreneurs. Today, another entrepreneur, the co-founder of a successful tech business, shares his story.
Anthony Figueroa did his time before striking out as an entrepreneur and co-founding TopTier Labs, which builds software and applications. But after working awhile for companies targeting the enterprise world, Figueroa found himself bored and unfulfilled. The good news: He’d always known he wanted to be an entrepreneur, and these feelings pushed him to take the next step.
After carefully considering the risks of leaving a well-paid job and stable life, Figueroa decided to chase his dream. “There is always risk involved, especially when you work for yourself and there’s no one above you writing your pay checks out bi-monthly, weekly, or however often,” he says. “Taking this path was a well thought out decision. At the time, the startup community in the United States was growing like crazy. I saw an opportunity.”
He joined forces with his now business partner, Fernando Colman, a former co-worker and classmate from college, who took the plunge with him. “We had an idea and the drive to bring it life. In 2011 TopTier Labs was formed,” he says.
Figueroa knew the beginning was not going to be easy, but he was confident Top Tier Labs could fulfill his career dreams and provide financial stability. He knew he would eventually be able to have a work life balance and more control over his future through having his own tech business. In Colman, he found his perfect business partner. “I couldn’t have done it without Fernando. It’s important to have a support system and he and I complement each other well.”
Getting started with a tech business
One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is finding customers. Figueroa says initially it was almost impossible to get the company’s first clients. Their solution: They priced their products and services extra low in order to win bids over the tech business competition.
“Fernando and I started by working almost for free so that we could have a lot of success cases to show any leads. As time went on, finding new clients got easier and easier – referrals came and we had portfolios to show on job sites which made us get hired more frequently.”
As a result, after just one year in the tech business, Figueroa and Colman hired their first employee. It was a turning point: “What felt like overnight, we saw the company duplicate in size and year after year since, that has happened. Our growth led to reaching 55 people in three different locations (Montevideo, Los Angeles, New York) including engineers, management, UX design, and sales teams.”
Other parts of the series: What Sets Entrepreneurs Apart from Wantrepreneurs?; Millennial Entrepreneurs Fueling Change in the Economy; and Entrepreneurs, Millennials, and Chasing the American Dream.
The challenges continue
Any entrepreneur will tell you: Being an entrepreneur is never easy and that’s why so many people fail before they get started. The challenges continued for Figueroa, who was determined to succeed. Three challenges that he mentioned for his tech business:
- Access to talent.
- Management structure.
“Access to talent is a problem everywhere in the world. Fernando and I overcame this challenge by creating strong relationships with universities, which gave us access to some of the best and brightest talent in the country,” he says.
Next, he credits having a solid legal and financial team for taking his company to the next level. “We started the company in Uruguay. When we decided to become an international company we faced a lot of legal and accounting challenges. Putting our trust in experts was the only way we were able to overcome our legal and accounting issues. Some really great people led us in the right direction.”
As far as management structure goes, Figueroa was still new to management when the company started and realized it needed a solid management structure. Setting his pride aside, he hired experienced managers for his tech business and placed them in key positions.
Advice for wantrepreneurs
“Starting a business is hard. It involves a lot of different things that you have to be good at,” he says who went on advising:
- In the beginning, expect to work long hours on nights and weekends. You won’t have a much of a life. Your business will be your life. If things go well, at some point, the business will take off and you will be able to create a more solid structure for growth.
- The most important skill in business (based on his experience) is the ability to learn from your own mistakes and be analytical about past decisions. The ability to iterate over your own decisions and take better ones is what defines a business that improves all the time.
- Surround yourself with talented people – it’s one of the best ways to learn.