We interviewed Steve Benson, founder of Badger Maps in San Francisco. He started his company four years ago after leaving Google. Continue reading to find out what’s the best way to meet investors in the Silicon Valley, tips to raise funding in the US, differences between the US and the European market and about Badger Maps’ plans for The Netherlands.
Interview with Founder of Badger Maps: Steve Benson
1. Hi Steve, thank you for your interest and sharing your experience with Leapfunder! Tell us about Badger Maps; how you came up with the idea & your entrepreneurial route!
The Badger map is focused on one particular type of salesperson – the Field Sales Rep. A Field Sales Rep does business with customers face to face. We believe that this particular type of salesperson has been overlooked by other sales solutions in the marketplace, so we created Badger to help them become more successful.
As far as how I became an entrepreneur building a solution for field sales people, my career has been spent in field sales, and so I understood the challenges faced by field sales people first hand. When I was working on the Google Maps team, I got to know first hand how powerful mobile mapping was, and what mobile was capable of doing. Because of this background, I was well positioned to launch a company to solve the problems of field sales based on a mobile mapping platform.
It was definitely a huge leap to leave the corporate world (and the salary and security that comes with it) and start a company. But I was confident that if I could put together the right team, we could solve a problem that would help a ton of people save time, and do better at their job.
2. Have you raised funding for Badger Maps? Please share your top 3 To Dos to raise a successful funding round in the US.
I have raised money for Badger Maps, it’s hard to get a business going without some money on hand to pay for people’s salaries and buy the necessary equipment. If I were going to give a few pieces of advice about raising funds, it would be:
1- Find investors that are aligned with you in terms of their goals for the business. If you are looking for a quick sale of a point solution that fills a feature gap at a couple large companies, and your investors want you to build up a company to go public, one side or the other is going to be disappointed.
2- Prospective investors make an investment ‘in you’ or ‘in the team’ if they know you. However, if they are investing more because they are attracted to the idea, it will be because they already were looking for an investment in an area like this. It’s because what you are doing closely matches with an existing thesis or belief that they already had.
3- The best way to raise money is from customers – with revenue. Focus on getting paying customers from day one. Solve a small part of a problem, find the people that have this problem more than everyone else, and get them to pay for the first part of the problem and explain the next few problems that you are going to solve for them on the roadmap. Not only will this lower your need for cash, but it guides your business in the right direction in terms of helping your product better fit a market need. Revenue really helps when you are looking to raise more money, because it shows investors that you are solving a problem that people are willing to pay for – and it really reduces their risk as investors.
3. For Dutch startups looking to expand to the US, what would you say is the best entry point? What are some of the best places/events to network and meet potential investors in the Silicon Valley?
In my opinion, the Silicon Valley and San Francisco is the best entry point for foreign businesses. Certainly, it is the best place to meet investors. The best way to meet investors is almost always to get introduced to them. Many investors don’t even like to meet with people that haven’t been introduced to them by someone that they know. There are also a ton of networking events where you can meet other entrepreneurs. Getting introduced to investors by other entrepreneurs can be one of the most effective things you can do, especially if that investor already invested in that entrepreneur.
4. Badger Maps is expanding to Europe. What are the major differences you came across between the US and the European market? Please mention if you’ve noticed any significant cultural differences.
The European market is just as big as the U.S. market for Badger, and Badger works great everywhere in Europe. There are field sales people everywhere in Europe – we believe that this will be just as big in Europe as it has been in the US.
The biggest difference that we’ve noticed is that people in the US seem to be more willing to try out new software that they haven’t heard of before. I’m not sure why that is exactly, but my guess is that since more technology companies are based here, people are more exposed to them, and more used to trying them out. The result is that it will just take a little more time to help people understand how much the right piece of technology can help them in their jobs.
5. What’s your plan for the Netherlands? How could Dutch startups benefit from using Badger Maps.
Our plan for the Netherlands is to get the word out through articles like this, and from people hearing about Badger from the U.S. operations that are already using it. Then, much like the U.S., we’ll mostly rely on people that we are helping out to tell their friends about how useful it is.
Badger can help Dutch startups that need to meet with their customers face to face. We can help them organize their time in the field better, to get more meetings, and focus on the best customers and prospects for them. For example, a Dutch brewery startup might use Badger to Map out the types of restaurants and bars that are most likely to buy their beer, and then they could go and drop by to give out samples to the bartenders and owners to see if they would like to try it out in their establishments.
Thanks a lot for the interview and all your insights Steve! You can learn more about Badger Maps here.