November 8, 2014
93% of the estimated $50B in personal property lost or stolen in the US is never recovered, costing consumers and insurance companies billions in replacement purchases and/or claims for reimbursement. With Rejjee, consumers can report stolen goods faster, and the police get better data for tracking down and recovering property. This leads to lower replacement purchase costs and a lower rate of fraud and claims for insurance companies.
Founded earlier this year in Boston, the team at Rejjee offers an app that is available for both Android and iOS. We asked Founder Ken Smith if we could pick his brain a bit about the startup process and the journey that Rejjee has tackled in their launch. Not only is Smith the Cofounder and Head of Product for Rejjee, but he also advises and mentors other startup founders. He teaches at the MIT Enterprise Forum and has even authored a book!
What has been the hardest lesson you have had to learn as a startup founder?
This is the seventh start-up I have been a part of as a member of the management team. It never gets easier. No matter how good your technology, smarter you are from prior experience about sales, marketing, business development, etc., your credibility and experience does not automatically translate into market traction. Every new innovation must earn its own place in the marketplace, and the hard work required to launch a product or company is the same whether its your first or fiftieth.
How do you keep the Rejjee team motivated?
We keep our team focused on the overall progress of the company rather than any one accomplishment or set back. There will always be mistakes that need to be fixed, and successes that don't deliver quite the results you had hoped for. Look at company progress on a month to month basis and see the long-term strategic trend lines.
What's a prevailing piece of advice in the business world that startup founders should avoid?
Build it and they will come. Innovation needs a viable, flexible, effective sales strategy. You can not launch MVP, a Facebook Page and Twitter account and just expect 10,000 of your best friends to part with their hard earned cash in exchange for your innovation. You have to show value, deliver results, and earn customer respect every day.
How do you keep yourself motivated to keep at the startup grind?
I have several people in my life who are my touch-stones. When ever I feel as though my life is a struggle I remember my friend whose family was chased out of their house and town because they were of ‘the other faith' – they never saw their house or town again. When I think a major client set back or rejection letter from a VC or angel group is tough, I think about facing a machine gun and having one hour to grab everything of value to me and leave my home forever. It's all about perspective and many of us here in the US lack that type of perspective.
What advice do you wish you had heard earlier in your career as a startup founder?
VCs are not in the investment business, they are in the asset management business. The majority of their salary is made whether they invest in your company or not, whether your company is a success or not, or whether their entire portfolio is a success or not. Their risk tolerance is zero.
When you think about the long-term vision for Rejjee, what do you see in the best case scenario?
That our core web service Mobile Blue becomes a federally mandated single standard for reporting non-emergency property theft, just like 911 is the single standard for emergencies.
Why should people use your product?
Simplest, fastest way to protect your valuables, and reduce the financial impact of personal property loss, damage, or theft.
And finally, if your startup was an animal… Which would it be?
A wolf. Because wolves are very smart, can run as quickly as they can sit patiently for hours, and they have great endurance.
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