Award-winning journalist turned tech entrepreneur Kunbi Tinuoye spoke at SuperNova South in Atlanta giving insight and pivotal takeaway points on bootstrapping a startup.
Her words come from fearless and gutsy experience. Tinuoye is the CEO and Founder of UrbanGeekz , a groundbreaking digital news platform that covers startups, commerce, geek gadgets, social media, scientific advancements and insight on the global technology industry steered toward African American, Latino and multicultural audiences.
She started the platform after years of writing and producing content for NBC’s theGrio, a leading African American news content site. There, she realized there wasn’t enough coverage on technology. At the same time, emerging employee reports from Facebook and other major tech companies showed a lack of diversity on their teams.
“It occurred to me that tech jobs are really the future and there’s a huge demographic, particularly women and Latinos, who are not represented,” she said.
So, through finding an open market (for UrbanGeekz there was a huge market potential), building up her brand, and securing some financing without venture capitalists or sponsorship, she was able to get UG to where it is today.
First, know your place in the market. Tinuoye said that finding your market potential is the first step in figuring out if you have a viable idea or product. Companies want to know that consumers will be interested in what you have to offer.
Second, focus your efforts on branding. Large companies have all had to start from humble beginnings, but now their name is synonymous on a global scale. Think Apple, Nike, or Google. That is, in large part to branding, a key aspect of many startups and entrepreneurs. “Think about your competition when you releasing your brand as well,” Tinuoye said.
Having your brand or company recognized online or in the general public is important for building traction. Having a lot of traction helps with attracting bigger brands and companies to work with you. Tinuoye said that partnerships have really elevated UrbanGeekz. Previous partners include AT&T, 20th Century Fox, and 500 Startups.
“That’s something I’ve been very mindful of and very strategic about,” said Tinuoye. Ultimately, they want to partner because they see a strong brand with a noteworthy presence in the industry.
Of course, Tinuoye is among a good number of entrepreneurs who make it look easy to churn out a formidable product with the absence of investors or without the influx of capital. But taking a jack of all trades stance and being thrifty is not going to scale a venture. The optimal goal is to finance your startup by generating revenue. Even if you decide to seek an investor, it makes sense to create a viable business that makes money, says Tinuoye.
And until your startup has that funding, Tinuoye shared a way to work around that temporarily: entering pitch contests. Competitions usually reward finalists with money to go towards their company. Additionally, as previously highlighted, it is a great way to promote yourself and build that traction she said.
Tinuoye joined an impressive list of industry heavy-weights, thought leaders, top-notch startup founders, and CEOs at this year’s 7th annual SuperNova tech conference.
“We had the best lineup of speakers yet,” said Founder and Executive Director Kashi Sehgal. “They’re diverse. They come from big companies and small disruptors. We have people from all over the country. We had VCs come out from the valley and agencies from New York.”
These speakers were spread out across the conference’s ten super-charged content tracks, including Social Media, FinTech, User Experience and HealthTech. BuiltTech was a new track offered this year. This diverse and vast offering is intentional, allowing for a little something for everyone, said Sehgal.
Attendees can attend one particular track for two days, but then explore other industries for the duration of the conference.
“You can layer in what you’re really good at and what you’re industry is, with other things from other industries that can help augment what you’re trying to learn,” said Sehgal.
With each passing year, Sehgal and her team are reaching their goal. “Our goal is to bring the most interesting, thought-provoking content to the most amount of people,” she said.