SURF member Michel Goffin and his company Decatur Industries Inc. has been bringing innovative solutions to government agencies and organizations worldwide for almost 5 years.
In this #SURF360 blog post, he shares advice with us on how to expand your start-up internationally, how to manage a team with enthusiasm, and more…
Q: Tell us a bit about your business and how you got into the tech space.
I arrived in Seattle in the fall of 1998 and knew only one person, a successful entrepreneur who had become an angel investor. He got me hooked and taught me the ropes. I never looked back. There are no dull days in the start-up world.
Q: Can you share a major business problem you have had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?
At Auditude (a company involved in media recognition), we changed our business model three times. Although our early business models had some success, we were chasing a piece of the pie in declining markets (broadcast advertising). We changed focus to online media and this led to a successful exit (sold to Adobe). It is rare to have it right the first time.
Q: Seattle is exploding with start-ups right now, so what’s hot and what’s your advice for budding entrepreneurs wanting to make their mark?
These days, it is rarely about technology. Rather, it is about enabling a client or consumer to change behavior in a significant way. This is by far more difficult to accomplish than creating the product itself. If successful, however, it is by far more rewarding and lasting.
Q: Your company works with governments and businesses in countries all over the world. What advice do you have for start-ups when they think about international expansion?
At Decatur, we have been successful in building strong partnerships with premier vendors of complementary products or services. They have the offices worldwide or agent network that we do not have. These partners will notify us of opportunities because, in return, we often source significant amounts of equipment or software from these vendors. It is a win-win.
Q: What’s the one thing in your career you would do differently now you know better?
The roller coaster ride that is typical for a start-up brings out the best in people, but occasionally also the worst. Therefore it is essential you choose your partners carefully. Mostly, I have been very lucky in this regard.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you infect your team with your enthusiasm?
Any accomplishment, how small it may be, is a good reason for celebration. I’d rather not dwell on failures. We all have had our fair share of them. I try to move forward as quickly as possible.
Q: What do you love about having office space at SURF Incubator?
Real work gets done there. There are no foosball or ping pong tables. Instead, you will see a printing machine or other specialized equipment. The infrastructure is just great. I have never had any issue reserving a conference room, whether small or for a big crowd. It is easily accessible by public transport. In all, it is the best value in town for shared office space, period.
Q: Surfer or sailor? And why?
I have been a sailor for almost 50 years. I find it intellectually stimulating, often physically challenging and above all, there is an intense beauty to the sailing experience, especially here in the Pacific North West.
In my next life, however, I plan on being a surfer dude.
For more #SURF360 interviews with entrepreneurs and companies resident here at SURF, check back to the SURF blog soon.