FeeFighters is a comparison shopping site that keeps credit card processers honest, and was recently named one of America’s Most Promising Startups by Business Week. This Excelerate 2010 company has found incredible success since participating in the summer intensive program, and we had the opportunity to chat with co-founder and CEO, Sean Harper.
Your company was operating prior to joining Excelerate. Why did you decide to join?
Sean: When you are staring a business, having more people on your side is really important. Excelerate is a focal point in the Chicago startup/tech community, a community which is just getting started but has lots of potential.
I spend a lot of time in the Bay Area and a big part of what makes that area special is the connectedness and sense of community. Everyone knows everyone and getting introductions and connections is easy. That environment makes starting a new business a lot easier and is a lot of fun to be in. Josh and Stella and I hoped that joining Excelerate would help us be part of that kind of community here.
What did you expect to get out of the Excelerate program and what did you actually get out of it?
Sean: There were five major things we were hoping to gain from our summer at Excelerate.
1. Connections and an expanded network
2. Mentorship and support
3. Opportunity to build relationships with other startups like us
5. Connections to investors
We came in with really, really high expectations and Excelerate met these expectations with flying colors. We have friends that have participated in similar accelerators that have been around longer so are better established (like Techstars and Y-Combinator). Based on our experience and the successful outcomes of other Excelerate companies, it’s clear that the Excelerate program offers the same level of support, resources and opportunities as those programs, quite an accomplishment given that Chicago was starting with less of a startup infrastructure than the Bay Area, or Boulder, or Boston and 2010 was Excelerate’s first year!
4 pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up – entrepreneurship is about creating your luck through hard work and staying in business. If you believe and work hard, you will make it work and good things will happen to you.
Don’t be scared – the stability of a normal job is illusory, you can be fired at any time, but if you are part of a team that builds something new you control your own destiny.
Add people – they will bring new energy to your business. Find people to get involved, and stake them in.
Put new people on a vesting schedule in case it doesn’t work out.
3 Valuable Takeaways from your summer at Excelerate?
In-person usability testing is hugely valuable.
Without a product you don’t have a company, so build something.
A simple product or company or value proposition is critical.