5 Lessons I Learned When I Started My Tech Company: ‘If an entrepreneur cannot listen, it’s a recipe for failure” with Charlene Consolacion and Mitch Russo
If an entrepreneur cannot listen, it’s a recipe for failure. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs who didn’t make it simply because they think they know it all. You have to learn how to let go of your ego and listen to your partners and customers. I’m not saying that you have to put into practice every feedback you get, but you should be able to learn something productive from it. Once you collected useful feedback from your customers, act on it.
As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My Company”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Charlene Consolacion. Charlene Consolacion is a technology entrepreneur who founded the world’s first smart lockbox for cars holding your license plate, the BiigVault. She is currently the founder and CEO of Biig Technologies Inc. “Biig”, a Silicon-Valley based technology company, renowned for its smart lockbox, the BiigVault, providing remote access to cars for purposes such as in-car delivery, roadside assistance and enabling seamless mobility services. Their mission is to provide mobility services without purchasing a new or luxury vehicle because through the BiigVault, any vehicle regardless of year and model can be connected.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Being in the automotive industry for almost a decade, I see the need for innovation. With all the available technology of today, I believe that technology can be leveraged to create new business opportunities in the automotive industry while improving customer experience in and out of their vehicles.
4 years ago, I had the opportunity to co-found this company where I started as a COO. 2 years later, I was appointed as its CEO. In my 6-months tenure as its CEO, I brought the company to a possibility of early acquisition and had the opportunity to work with multibillion dollar automotive companies for strategic partnerships. I built a diverse strategic investors who are not only bringing large commitments to the table but also pillars of the company’s core business functions.
During critical business negotiations, I was demanded to lie and conceal unethical business practices from partners and investors by the Chairman of the Board. After several disagreements with the Chairman of the Board for standing up for my values and integrity, I resigned as its CEO.
I founded Biig to continue my vision of transforming the automotive industry.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
With all the technology of today, there is got to be a way to get packages and groceries delivered to my car’s trunk, instead of my home because I am constantly on-the-go. With the BiigVault, we are transforming how people fit cars in their day-to-day lives, improving their experiences in and out of vehicles. Any car, built in any year, can become a temporary mobile locker- receiving laundry, groceries and food at a touch of a button.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I have lost a lot of multimillion deals for telling the truth. I have met a number of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who will do whatever it takes — even if it costs them their integrity. Contrary to this culture, I have to stand up for what is right, even if it costs me a deal. Had I not spoken the truth, had I not been willing to walk away from the deal, it would have been even more difficult to live accepting that I didn’t have the courage to stand up for my values.
My willingness to walk away from deals that costs my honesty and integrity is something I live by, and in return, I gain the trust and loyalty of the people I work with.
My investors, my stakeholders, and my colleagues. These are the people who inspire me to move forward because of the trust and belief that they have given me when I was starting out Biig. Being responsible for their future, well-being and investment has given me the drive to continue even through the hardest times.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
All is going well. At Biig, we have found the right team and investors who share the same vision and values. Having a great idea and a great team is not enough to make it in Silicon Valley. As the leader of the company, I have to be able to keep going regardless of how tough the road is and how many doors were closed. Now, through Biig, I am witnessing how our products transform and become part of people’s lives.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Aside from our cool products, we have a world-class team who is highly ambitious, intellectually curious and passionate to create something new. Our head of product started building technologies for space at 14 years old. Our head of technology has the strength to build something from the scratch and translate what he builds to everyday application.
Before finding my team, I have worked with several team of engineers who proclaimed that the technology we were building at Biig was impossible, and that we were fighting against physics. Ultimately, I had let these engineers go. I then found my team who proved them wrong.
At Biig, positive attitude is one of our core mantras. My co-founder and I strive to increase the odds of having a positive workforce by hiring people with positive outlooks. We test future candidates about how they handle disappointment and setback. I believe that some people are born with positive energy, but it can also be developed and influenced. We strive to exude this positive attitude from the management and its leadership.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Entrepreneurship is very similar to going on a roller coaster ride, there will be plenty of ups and downs. We all encounter hard times, disappointment, success, failure etc. The key is what you do next. You must learn how to unplug and walk away from it temporarily to be able to pick yourself back up and pull yourself together. You need to give yourself time to heal because what matters is you wake up the next day and try again, and again, and again.
The truth is nobody will know how hard you work at what you do. Nobody will be able to tell you which direction is right or wrong. You need to accept that you will be here for a long-haul and success takes time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have a long list of them. I wouldn’t be here where I am today without them. Entrepreneurship is tough and my mentors have become my confidential sounding board, thinking room and support through complex decisions. The reality is no one knows it all. Having to take a step back and getting out of our own heads will help us to make a logical business decision. My mentors give me the insight to look beyond temporary issues face by a startup and help me focus on building a grander vision for it. With my mentors, I have the opportunity to openly discuss differing viewpoints and merge on common grounds quickly as making a decision quick in a startup is extremely important.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
While we cannot disclose the number of customers we currently have at Biig, our mission is to make our technology as the standard for the automotive industry to providing remote access to vehicles for seamless mobility services.
– In the beginning, most people won’t understand the value of what you do especially if you are doing something that has never been done before. There will be a lot of rejections and pushbacks, and that’s OK. This will challenge you, and you have to be willing to quickly learn and adapt while not losing sight of what you started out to do.
– If an entrepreneur cannot listen, it’s a recipe for failure. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs who didn’t make it simply because they think they know it all. You have to learn how to let go of your ego and listen to your partners and customers. I’m not saying that you have to put into practice every feedback you get, but you should be able to learn something productive from it. Once you collected useful feedback from your customers, act on it.
– This goes back to listening to your partners and customers. Your best advocates are your partners and customers. Once they choose your product and services, they will continue to support and promote your company to new customers organically. One of the key main steps to building a large customer base is finding your dedicated advocates and then ensuring the advocacy continues by nurturing their success.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
We monetize through a combination of subscription and transaction. We wanted to give an option to our customers to pay per transaction as opposed to locking them on a subscription.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. You have to do your research and have sufficient knowledge on the market you are trying to penetrate. You cannot just wake up one day and start a business. I have a number of aspiring entrepreneurs come up to me and share their “cool-new-innovative-ideas”, but have not done enough research if the market needs it, what are the available solutions out there, and what are the problems they are trying to solve.
At Biig, before we came up with a minimum viable product, we had a combination of industry expertise, customer feedback, engineering reiterations, and rigorous testing.
2. Once you’ve done your research and you believe that there is a need for your solution, you have to make sure that you are building what your potential customers want, not what you think they want. I know a lot of companies who built products and haven’t gone to market. They thought they built the most brilliant product but ended up storing their products into their garage because no one was buying them.
At Biig where I work with team members who love to build and create new products and features, I don’t let our entrepreneurial spirit get in the way of what our customers’ truly want.
3. Once you start building your product, get it out there. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The more you test it out with customers, the more you will learn and better your product. In a previous company I worked at where the leadership is an engineer himself, every feedback and request from a subset of our customer base, he added features and continuously iterating the product. 2 years later, there is still no product; customers have walked away, found an alternative solution, and a couple of new players came up.
At Biig, while we focus on building a differentiated product, we don’t take forever to launch. Our early customers’ feedback helps us improve it.
4. You need to be able to translate your vision and communicate it effectively to your existing and potential customers. What customer problem are you solving and why should they pay for it? Most importantly, why you and not your competitors?
The automotive tech industry is very competitive. At Biig, we need to be able to communicate and demonstrate to our customers why our product is differentiated in meaningful ways from our competitors’ offerings.
5. You have to be prepared to stick to it for the long haul. As you likely know, building something great takes a long time. If you are launching a business with the sole focus on a quick turn-around, you’re most likely going to give up when you are at the challenging times. I have met aspiring entrepreneurs who thought the products they built will change their lives overnight. Since it was not the case, they ended up abandoning their products and came back to their previous jobs.
As a leader at Biig, I make sure that what we build is around a topic area that we are passionate and knowledgeable about, something we deeply believe in and are going to work tirelessly to make it happen.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
About the author:
Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M business together. Mitch wrote a book called “The Invisible Organization — How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies” and now his 2nd book called Power Tribes — “How Certification Can Explode Your Business.” Mitch helps SaaS company founders scale their own companies using his proprietary system. You can reach Mitch Directly via firstname.lastname@example.org
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