Introduction and Interview by David Wagstaff
This interview with Lucas Langen is part of a series of articles from entrepreneurs, compiled with the goal of providing other business owners and soon-to-be business owners with a realistic view of what it takes to run a business and some of the challenges commonly faced.
I first learned about Lucas as he applied to be part of the Entrepreneur’s Network. I saw he had multiple experiences in the startup world and was currently a co-founder in a startup, NewGlue, developing an innovative solution for branding.
Based on a recent survey of members of this group (Survey Results), approximately 68% of this group’s members already have one or more businesses. Surprisingly to me, over 51% plan to open a business within the next 24 months. That means at least 17% of current members plan to open a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th business within the next 24 months. I didn’t realize how common it is in the entrepreneur world for owners to own multiple businesses.
One of the things I’ve learned on my own entrepreneurial journeys is that branding provides significant value at all stages within the business lifecycle. A professional brand builds credibility and trust. Even a new business can present a professional image if the branding is done well. As I worked on Lucas’ interview, I liked his focus on scalable businesses.
Many entrepreneurs grow wonderful lifestyle businesses where they can earn a reasonable living and may also be able to maximize work-life balance. While I respect the skills and challenges faced by all business owners, scalable businesses have a special spot in my heart. There are unique challenges in building scalable businesses and it can also be incredibly exciting when done successfully.
Lucas mentions the challenge of raising angel capital. I too have been through that process and can relate to the challenges but can also tell you that the process was extremely valuable. Like Lucas, not all advice is good advice.
Overall, I found that the angel investors had some great insights. Beyond raising the capital, I think of the angel process as raising a freeboard of advisors. If you are able to develop a strong enough pitch, you will attract advice that can help you guide your business at a time when it’s unlikely you could afford that quality of advice. And you can choose the advice to accept from potentially dozens of investors.
If you pitch to a couple of hundred investors and none see value in your current pitch, it’s probably time to consider that there may be room to improve it. The advice received is really one of the best-kept secrets of seeking angel investments. But be prepared – it can take a lot of time. I think it’s fair to say that my team and I spent over 300 hours in the first year after launching on crafting our message for investors.
But what may not have been fully appreciated is that the process also allowed us to spend a lot of time planning our business and developing our key messages for prospects. At Alfrea, we pivoted several times and investor advice was an important part of that process. I believe with each pivot our business was strengthened. Sometimes a business idea is good but just needs some refinement or redirection.
1) What led you to become an entrepreneur?
After gaining work experience in finance and completing my Master’s in Energy, Trade, and Finance, I was determined to work in commodities trading. However, when a friend pitched Show – the world’s first instant global voting platform – to me, I was immediately intrigued by the scalability of the platform. Working for Show opened the doors to the entrepreneurship mindset – with all its ups and downs – and I learned a lot about digital marketing and what it means to work in a small team with limited funding.
After two years as a startup employee, my co-founder, Cris Westrell, approached me about building NewGlue with him, an innovative marketplace for high-quality logos and branding. Again, it was the scalability of the idea and the huge problem we solve for both designers and small businesses that ultimately got me very excited.
2) A brief description of your business and what are your aspirations for it?
NewGlue is a branding marketplace that automates most of the traditional logo design process and therefore allows us to offer full brand packages by professional designers at a fraction of the conventional cost.
Our customers, mostly new and small businesses, get access to their BrandHub, which instantly delivers everything they need to brand their business in a professional and unified way; including all files and formats, fonts, color codes, social media packages, branded merchandise, presentation material, and advertising tool. We are currently raising funds to build out the BrandHub as a SaaS business.
3) What things have you done with your business that you are proud of or work really well?
Most marketplace models initially struggle with finding a business model that can both attract and grow supply and demand in a coherent way. Our biggest challenge was to build a product and business model that would make it a no-brainer for designers to upload their unsold work.
We are incredibly proud that within just a few months of launching NewGlue, we work with some of the best logo designers in the business, and we believe that no other service in the affordable branding market can currently match the quality and speed of our product.
4) What were some of your biggest challenges along the way?
Finding and convincing investors to believe in you and your business is always tough, especially when you are a very early-stage company. You need to learn to sell people on your vision and potential, which is difficult because most investors tend to want to see numbers trending in the right direction.
5) Have you overcome the challenges? If so how?
People will always try to poke holes in your thinking. Feedback can be extremely valuable, but also very destructive. Over time, we learned to take feedback with a grain of salt, what to focus on and what to ignore. You cannot please everyone, and you can’t build a product that serves everyone either.
6) What have you learned and what would you like to share with other entrepreneurs?
Staying positive and believing in yourself and your company is extremely important. Persistence and hard work will reap benefits one day, but one also needs to remain patient as things often take longer than you anticipate.
7) Is there someone or a group of people you would like to meet? For example, investors in the electrical industry, Mentors in the publishing industry. A knowledgeable SEO person. Specific is helpful.
The affordable branding space is extremely competitive, so we always look for talented people in digital marketing to help drive paid and unpaid traffic.