Meet Our Startup of the Year Competition Semifinalists: Sky Blue Technology

From apps to hardware, to KickStarter successes and international startups, we’re inching closer to finding out who will take home the title of Startup of the Year at our annual Celebrate Conference in October. Among the dozens of participants that applied for the online competitions, only a few progressed into the semifinals.

Climbing the ranks for our Fargo Region, Sky Blue Technology was one of two semifinal winners. If they come out on top, Sky Blue Technology can expect prizes and support from Tech Wildcatters, 500Startups, Consumer Electronics Association, Crowdfunder, Techstars, American Airlines, and more!

In order to get a better understanding about what they do and how they are preparing for Celebrate, we sat down with Sky Blue Technology cofounders Kari Peterson and Amy McKinnon to hear about their journey to get to Celebrate.

Tech.Co: Since launch, what was the most challenging part of gaining market traction? 

Kari Peterson and Amy McKinnon: We have learned as a startup we should always be selling and be ready to share our solution with anyone, anywhere, at any time. The reality is neither of us had extensive sales experience. (Outside of the pizzas, cookies or coupons we needed to help our kids sell for school or extra-curricular activities). So, we have spent a lot of time focusing on what makes Sky Blue unique and determining how we can brand the solution to gain market traction.

Tech.Co: What was the road like leading up to your initial pitch for the competition? Did you do anything in particular to rally your fans?

Peterson and McKinnon: The road leading up to our initial pitch has been more like a roller coaster ride. We may succeed and we may fail. The wild turns and gut wrenching drops along the way are as predictable as they are frightening. However, what keeps us grounded is our prospects and existing customers. We understand it is our job to pay attention to our customers, to understand how Sky Blue is used and build features based on this feedback. We understand we don’t have all the answers. However, we have an incredible team at Sky Blue along with people in our community and social networks who are here to help us if we need it. (Sometimes the difficult part is knowing when to ask for help). It is those people who we reached out to via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and asked for their support in this online competition.

Tech.Co: Is this your first startup or have you all been part of others in the past?

Peterson and McKinnon: This is our first official startup. We have talked about different ideas over the years but never took action. The advice we give to others who approach us now is to come up with a name. Set up a bank account. Continue moving forward and believe in yourself. We could have easily said, are we crazy? We’re building a tech company and neither of us are developers. Really, we could have come up with a thousand reasons not to do this – but believing in yourself and being creative is important.

Tech.Co: How are you all prepping for the big semi-finals competition next month?

Peterson and McKinnon: We are preparing for the big semi-finals competition next month by really focusing on our pitch. We understand the value of a professional pitch and this competition gives us a great platform to tell our story. You will not find a lot of hype via social media or raving about how great our solution is in advance. We are excited to simply tell our story and give the judges and attendees in the expo the chance to think and form their own opinions about Sky Blue.

Tech.Co: As a provider who supports marketers, do you have a favorite marketing campaign you’ve seen in the past? (Client or otherwise)

Peterson and McKinnon: In general, we lean towards marketing campaigns which are simple and powerful. The one marketing campaign which comes to mind is Nike: Just Do It. It is a slogan, as a startup, we can all relate to in regards to the drive to push ourselves daily beyond our limits.

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Written by:
Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@) or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.
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