Kyle Bragger is a designer and developer, former CTO of Cork’d and BricaBox, and now the founder of Forrst–you might have heard that yesterday was also his birthday. Lucky for us, the internet was inexplicably crawling at Dogpatch Labs last week and we got to pick Mr. Bragger’s brain for a while.
Q: What was the best idea you’ve had that never took off, or would never be able to get funding?
A: I have this crazy idea about building a way for freelancers to do Groupon-style discounts on services — actually prototyped it and ran with a copywriter friend (@pagecrusher)—byteandgrid.com. He had six sales I think. It’s a little bit ridiculous but I think the model is really interesting… just needs a huge initial boost to get over the chicken and egg problem. Also not sure how it scales. The core of it was that you’d grab really talented folks that could offer one-off creative services — wireframes, UX, copywriting, identity design, whatever. They’d cut a deal on one or two services to drum up new business and get a bit of exposure. It actually has a lot of overlap with one of my theses with Forrst, which is solving the “I’m awesome but no one knows it” problem. I’d never considered trying to raise money against it–I’m a huge believer in the bootstrapping model.
Q: What is your bootstrapping philosophy?
A: Even with Forrst we’ve raised less than 300k ever, and will likely be profitable or close to it by 2012, and that money was so I could grow the team and really accelerate stuff. But there’s no reason that you necessarily have to raise money to be successful—lots of examples of bootstrapping to huge success—Carbonmade, 37signals, etc.
Q: So when does it make sense to raise money in your opinion?
A: It really depends on what the goals are. If you’ve got something that’s already making money, then maybe just raise a little bit—maybe you need to put some money into marketing, or want to grow your team. Again, it all depends (at least in my opinion) on what the goals for the company are. I think we’re in a really interesting point in time for building projects and starting companies, where folks may never need any outside capital. One plus to raising money (again, if you feel it’s the right thing for the business) is getting investors who can add a ton of value, beyond just the cash.
YCombinator is kind of the classic example for me—the money is helpful but it’s really about the huge network of advisors and alums.
Q: What are the best and worst things about being a startup in New York?
A: Hmm, New York City. That’s a good question. Maybe it’s just me but I think there’s a slight case of networking-itis going around. I think generally it’s extremely hard to find developers and designers, but that’s also not just New York, at least from what I’m seeing and hearing. There’s a great network of folks out here, though. Things feel like they’ve really come along even in the last few years. Tons of folks doing really cool stuff—NYU is starting to do more startup/entrepreneurially focused stuff (Tech@NYU is the program).
Q: Okay, here is a heady one. What’s the next big tech revolution that’s coming?
A: Oh man. GROUP TEXTING! Just kidding.
I’d love to see an evolution of the social graph. It’s not binary. I have different affinities to different people. I think and hope to see people tackling this in big ways… I’m more excited about what the next five, 10, 20 years hold for medicine and aviation, for instance, and how technology can change those industries, e.g. iPads getting approval from the FAA for use by crews.
Q: When does a start-up stop being a start-up?
A: I’ve always thought about it like this: start-ups are companies in search of a repeatable and scalable source of revenue. Hopefully I’m not full of shit for saying that. There’s also a distinction I wish more people would make between projects and start-ups; the word “startup” seems to get thrown around a lot. But yeah–for me, it’s when you’re able to identify revenue streams and start scaling that. I’d say Forrst is probably more than a start-up at this point, under that definition.