In part one of our series, we profile Alec Levin of Steadfast whose startup is incubated at the DMZ at Ryerson University and where he obtained expert help with financial literacy at Intuit’s #FinanceHub.
Many startups are borne out of a passion for a product or service but for entrepreneur Alec Levin, it was sparked by pain. The 25-year-old Toronto resident was working for a startup building software for scientists and deeply frustrated at using email and phone to engage with their users for product feedback.
“I felt I was wasting so many hours and it wasn’t effective, particularly when trying to liaise with 20 to 50 people.” Levin thought there must be a better communication tool so in January 2015, he quit his full-time job to start his own company, Steadfast, with Kyle Bernstein.
Steadfast’s aim is to attract companies who are developing apps or websites, as it enables them to get immediate and critical feedback from their users or target market about the ease of use or features of the product through a direct messaging platform.
“The feedback is instant and honest and the app builder or product team can then work to improve their product and, as a result, make users happier and boost their revenue,” says Levin.
While it took a year to develop the platform and get clients on board, he said it’s proving very satisfying.
“We’re changing the way the world builds apps and websites.”
Check out our snapshot of Levin:
Co-founder: Alec Levin
How did you come up with your business idea? I used to do user testing and research at a previous startup, and it was really irritating and difficult to communicate with users through the traditional channels of email and telephone.
What makes your business unique? For the first time, companies who are building apps and websites can use their customers or target market as the product testers, and they can get critical feedback in real-time throughout the development and launch of any digital product.
What has been your greatest business achievement to date? Signing our first enterprise customer.
And your biggest challenge? Finding more resources to put into the business, and also learning about accounting and bookkeeping, and other day-to-day tasks.
How did Intuit #Finance Hub help? They were great at keeping us organized, helping us better understand our financial situation, and how to stay ahead of financial trouble.
What finance question did you need answering when you started? What business expenses I could claim on tax. Also how and when do I pay corporate taxes.
Top tip for aspiring entrepreneurs to keep overheads low? Until you are product-market fit, don’t pay yourself nor staff a salary. Find staff with the same passion you share for the problem you’re trying to solve.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business? Amazon Web Services.
Two apps you rely on in business? Slack and Gmail.
Two apps you couldn’t live without for personal use? Spotify and Twitter.
How do you relax in your spare time? Basketball.
One thing you wish you had known when you launched your business? How long it was going to take to get meaningful traction.
One piece of advice you would give to an aspiring startup? Don’t quit your day job and work the startup at night, spend as little money as you can, find the most talented people possible to work with you. Before we were making money, I was sleeping on my parents’ couch.
Where would you like your business to be in two years? A really big company. The company should be proportionate to the size of the problem they’re solving – and we believe the problem we’re solving is massive.