May 8, 2013
Last night, SquareOffs, a social-focused, online polling startup, took home the title of Kansas City’s Hottest Showcasing Startup, at a capacity-packed Boulevard Brewing Company as part of Tech Cocktail’s KC Mixer and Startup Showcase.
Built on the frustration of the lack of innovation of online polling, SquareOffs uses Facebook and Twitter authentication to shift the conversation toward social. Additionally, users can comment on poll questions, adding some depth to a once two-dimensional space.
Tech Cocktail caught up with SquareOffs co-founder and CEO, Jeff Rohr, to learn more about the venue “Where the world picks a side.”
Tech Cocktail: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn so far?
Jeff Rohr: That this journey is 5-10 times harder than I ever thought it would be. I don’t quit though. You have to wear so many hats and balance the talents on your team. I think it helps to be versatile as a founder. If you’re not, quickly ask for help in areas where you struggle. Time is your most valuable asset.
Tech Cocktail: How do you keep your team motivated?
Rohr: My non-stop drive to do something big, burrito lunches, candy, and a kegerator.
Tech Cocktail: What common startup advice do you completely disagree with?
Rohr: You have to be careful about being lean. People have very high expectations in tech in 2013. It’s good to be lean in most cases, but make sure that what you release is polished.
Tech Cocktail: What’s the best entrepreneurship book you’ve read and why?
Rohr: The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki. It applies to many things in life and covers the gamut in the variety of things that you should know as a founder.
Tech Cocktail: If you had an extra $1,000 to spend on marketing, how would you use it?
Rohr: It would go toward our marketing team putting in time on collateral, social media, and content marketing. Oh, and a Bing Gordon speaking engagement.
Tech Cocktail: What trend are you excited about as a user or consumer?
Rohr: The web is becoming more and more “lean in”. This strategy of directly involving the audience really gives people a voice and at the same time drives digital revenue.
Tech Cocktail: What’s your biggest personal weakness, and how do you make up for it?
Rohr: I’m a perfectionist. I try to take a step back once and a while and see the picture. It keeps me focused on the right things. I also rely on my girlfriend to tell me to get sleep. I forget that this is necessary sometimes.
Tech Cocktail: What keeps you motivated on the hard days?
Rohr: My family and friends are my biggest motivation. They have been a huge support system. I also think about the countless days/nights that I’ve worked and that I’m not giving up now. It’s a marathon. I kind of picture it like a music artist creating a great album. It takes a lot of hours in the lab to come out with a hit.
Tech Cocktail: What personality trait has served you best as an entrepreneur?
Rohr: Being one sharp Swiss Army knife, being stubborn enough to figure out things I don’t know about, and a constant focus on executing through all of the noise.
Tech Cocktail: What’s the weirdest way someone has used SquareOffs?
Rohr: That’s a tough one. So much of life is two opinions going head-to-head: sports, politics, entertainment, etc. We have brands that are using it to compare two new products. It’s fun to watch. We used a SquareOff to decide which beer to serve at our SXSW publisher party. It worked well and Shiner came out on top: http://www.squareoffs.com/sxsw
Tech Cocktail: Why should I use your product, in 140 characters or fewer?
Rohr: Opinions Matter. We turn polls that haven’t changed in 15 years into interactive debates where users have a voice and can share it.
Tech Cocktail: If SquareOffs were a cocktail, which one would it be and why?
Rohr: A black and tan … two sides with varying tastes.
Tech Cocktail: What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of starting up in Kansas City?
Rohr: The Kansas City startup scene is really coming to life. Kansas City always had great resources for the entrepreneur, but in the last 2 years they have really come together as one single unit. Resources such as The Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City Startup Village, Rocket Fuel Partners, Think Big Partners, OfficePort, SPN, and a host of others have been huge for both SquareOffs and the community in general. More talent is coming to the area as well as conferences such as IKC, Big KC, CityCamp, and Middle of the Map.
Want to be your city’s hottest showcasing startup? Apply to showcase at a local Tech Cocktail Mixer today (it’s free).
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