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The Story Behind Wahooly

Building a company from the ground-up, from conceptualization to success

By Dana Severson

Just a year ago, I was lIvIng vicariously through other entrepreneurs. In my weekly interviews with emerging companies, I found myself lost in their stories, envying their pursuit of suc- cess and dreaming of the day when I too would be in their shoes. well, it turned out that it wouldn't be long before that journey began. In fact, those conversations are precisely what led me to where I am today.

Now, after nearly four years of sharing stories of companies and the founders who are making their dreams come true, I have the great fortune of writing my own story. I've been here before-more than a couple of times, in fact-but this time is different. I've been educated by those in the trenches.

Wahooly

As any entrepreneur knows, trading corporate life for that of a founder isn't quite as glamorous as it looks from the outside. the hours are never-ending, the pay can be less than exciting and the stress levels border on insanity. with that said, the rewards are immeasurable. every ounce of effort is worth priceless amounts in return. It's not a 9 to 5 job and you don't want it to be. your business is your child and it requires constant attention and nurturing.

What I've learned from more than 70 interviews with entrepreneurs reached beyond what I was taught by college professors. these were the lessons that could only be told by those who know what it's like to be entrepreneurial business-own ers. their lessons peeled back the layers of run- ning a business and dug into the true challenges.

As a 35-year-old father of three and husband to a stay-at-home mother, returning to self-employment seemed like a distant reality. without a guaranteed income or health insurance, it's hard to convince your family it's the right decision. we spent a few years figuring out how my wife could still live her dream of staying home to raise our children.

A born and bred entrepreneur, I could feel my biological clock ticking with each passing day. I dreaded the thought of looking back in 10 years, still living a life of regret. For those who struggle with the same situation, I understand how it can consume you.

In september of 2011, I decided that enough was enough. It was time to finally stop dreaming and start living the dream. so far, it's a decision I have not regretted.

As in most single-income families with obligations and responsibilities, making something work requires a tremendous amount of effort. this is the breaking point for most aspiring en- trepreneurs. this is where the rubber meets the road-you either commit or you don't. I decided to make the commitment. that meant balancing a day job, family life and entrepreneur life all within a 24-hour window. In other words: late evenings, early mornings, working lunches and regular conference calls from the car.

Beyond hours, there is the challenge of funding. this can vary greatly depending on the type of business you're starting, but it's a challenge every entrepreneur faces. I was no exception. Like most, we were making enough to run a household, but certainly not enough to bankroll a business. This is where my past interviews came in handy.

"One of the greatest lessons I've learned is to build your business using other people's money."

In my case, I managed to bring on two partners, Connor Hood and Tony Holmes, who believed in the vision and were willing to work for equity. In addition, I worked out a deferment arrange- ment with a law firm, which bought us six months of non-payment. In the end, total expenditures amounted to less than $400 in slightly over five months' time.

Wahooly was born. Fortunately, our business was interesting enough to get a ton of press attention. This led to massive exposure that helped us build traction and attract the interest of users, partners and clients without spending a dime.

Traditional rules have said that someone must be an accredited investor to invest in a private company. We've changed those rules. We believe that, for a young company, a person's online reputation and input is just as valuable as money. We've provided a platform for both of them to recognize that value.

While interviewing emerging technology businesses, I noticed a common theme. Many young online companies found themselves in a "chicken or the egg" scenario: without users, they're not able to secure clients, and without clients, they're not able to secure users. Most commonly, investors wanted to see traction, but companies needed funding to help generate that traction.

Our journey has been nothing if not exciting. I'm proud to say that after just 7 short months, we've been featured by everyone from MSNBC to Techcrunch and have successfully closed our first round of financing. We've partnered with leading-edge companies like Klout to generate exposure. Most importantly however, I'm proud that we've built a business that will lead others into the future.

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