Despite having founded a total of six companies, Karen Suhaka isn’t afraid to admit that she’s persistently learning how to run a business. For the serial entrepreneur and founder of LegiNation (the company behind BillTrack50), learning along the way has been a crucial experience that has helped to mold the companies she’s operated as well as to mold herself as an entrepreneur.
BillTrack50 is a legislation tracking database that follows legislative data from state and federal governments, and makes this data easily searchable and accessible. The platform is a lower-cost, easily-digestible alternative (with regards to understanding content) to LexisNexis, and unlike some similar databases, BillTrack50 tracks legislation from all 50 states. The database itself is free to use for reading and researching bills, but a paid subscription allows for active alerts on new legislation, as well as the function to share bills and analysis with other people.
Suhaka holds an undergraduate degree in physics and a master’s in math, yet, despite the lack of a political background, she ventured to start LegiNation. In some ways, constant learning has been an essential feature of her business plan. Initially thought out as a kind of social network to conduct dialogue around legislation, her research into the industry led her to pursue BillTrack50 as it is currently: an easily accessible and simply shareable database of legislative info.
BillTrack50 was initially meant to be targeted at lobbyists. Based on all her research and what she’d learned about the political process, it just made the most sense to target that population: they needed and used this kind of legislative information, and there were tens of thousands of registered lobbyists around the country. After four initial months of attempting to market BillTrack50 to lobbyists, she began to learn that a completely different audience found greater use for the product. “[BillTrack50] has a lot of transparency features, such as sharing [legislative information] with anyone you want to share it with. Over time, I learned that this was super attractive to trade groups and advocacy organizations.”
After eight months, Suhaka went after another target market, attending trade shows, reaching out to governor’s groups, and getting in touch with large Fortune 500s and nonprofits. Despite having signed on companies like Apple and organizations like the American Neurological Association, when asked about how she markets to her audience, Suhaka responds “I’m still kind of figuring that out. I’ve definitely figured out my niche market, now it’s just a matter of learning how to fully reach [that market].”
Withal, Suhaka is fully accepting of the fact that she doesn’t have everything figured out, yet. Being an entrepreneur is a constant learning process, which is why she’s involved in 1 Million Cups, an organization made up of entrepreneurs who learn from and support each other. “When I started my first company, I was a girl starting a dot-com in the oil industry; it was lonely, and I had to learn a lot on my own. [1 Million Cups] is one way I’ve been able to share everything I’ve learned so far.”
LegiNation was recently featured at Tech Cocktail’s Denver Mixer & Startup Showcase at Denver Startup Week.