Founders’ Friday: Christopher Kwiatkowski, RapidCommittee
Hi, Brandon here again. Today’s featured Friday founder is Christopher Kwiatkowski from RapidCommittee. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to him about his company and why he loves being a program developer. Enjoy.
Founder: Christopher Kwiatkowski
BC: Tell me a little bit about your company:
CK: RapidCommittee is a committee management system for standing committees primarily, but also for ad hoc committees, that may be used by new or existing committees in large enterprises down to small organizations. We currently focus on supplying non-profit and academic institutions with the best tool for managing the day-to-day workflows associated with effectively running a committee.
The product side of RapidCommittee delivers an easy-to-use collaboration tool for committees and committee members. We have a customer advisory board that has been integral to the development of the product to make sure that we are flexible enough to handle the myriad of possible committee management styles and architectures of our clients. So, things like, sub-committees passing motions to parent committees for review and approval are now possible in the system.
Even in settings where committees are separated geographically from one another, RapidCommittee will provide the essential links to efficient decision making and documentation.Our client that we keep in mind in every product development decision that we make is that overworked committee chair or secretary that is stuck requesting motions for upcoming meetings, developing agendas for meetings, getting agenda approval, disseminating the agenda to all members, then capturing the results of the committee meeting and documenting who was involved in every step of the decision making process. And that is just a short list of their duties!
BC: What have been some of your biggest challenges so far?
CK: I am the father of a beautiful 2 ½ year old girl and another on the way in September. I am the husband to an amazingly supportive wife, and I am in my second year of the MBA program at the University of Georgia which I will complete in May 2013. So, it can be difficult balancing my family life and responsibilities with my business/entrepreneurial life. I really can’t emphasize how important it is to have a loving supporting family when pursuing a new business venture. Without the support and understanding of my family I don’t know how I could keep up my current schedule.
BC: What have you learned in the process of building your company that you did not know when you started?
CK: The importance of building something that people can see right away. That was one of the key things that we could have done a better job of from day one. To put something in front of the client and saying this is the product goes a long way in selling your idea. As we have developed, it has become easier to sell our product.
If I could do it all over again, I would have just developed the RapidCommittee concept without the bells and whistles that we currently have. I would have just built a core application that removed the top 10 pain points that our clients are experiencing managing their committees and then turning that over to those clients immediately. Since we follow a Rapid Application Development methodology, after the release of that initial prototype we would then accept the input of our customers through our “Raving Fans” customer support service to drive our future product development efforts.
BC: Where do you see your company in the next year?
CK: In the next year, I see us with 10,000 customers running full steam ahead. I will be out of the MBA program by May, so I will be able to be completely devoted to RapidCommittee and I believe that will lead to much more opportunities and clients.
RapidCommittee is in the process of rebranding. We like RapidCommittee but it’s a long name according to marketing experts who believe that a shorter name, 6 characters or less, will help us a lot in the long run. MITTEY is what we have come up with so far, it is a play on the RapidCommittee name. Very soon we will have a logo for MITTEY and will be operating in both places, RapidCommittee.com and Mittey.com on the world wide Internets.
BC: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
CK: I’m a geek so I enjoy developing, that’s my favorite thing to do. I read technical books all of the time, to give you an idea of just how geeky I am. I also look forward to the day where I see something I have developed through hard work and creativity with a massive adoption and satisfied customer base.
BC: How did you get involved with Four Athens?
CK: I found out about Four Athens when I was doing Next Top Entrepreneur at UGA back in 2011. When I pitched in the third round, that’s when I met Jim Flannery. I realized that I needed help with my pitching. Before I met Jim I didn’t know there were other entrepreneurial technical people developing businesses in Athens; I thought I was a lone-wolf.
I asked Jim about Four Athens and what they do. Free of charge, he and his entire team would show up at 8 o’clock at night, which was the only time I had due to my MBA schedule, and critique my pitch and offer me feedback on my executive summary and business plans. I had no connection to Four Athens, but they were all more than willing to help. After winning Next Top Entrepreneur in 2012, and getting Four Athens office space at a discount as a prize. I decided to join Four Athens as an official client company.
BC: What has been the high point in your journey of building your company?
CK: I don’t know yet, we will see.
BC: What has been the low point in your journey of building your company?
CK: Listening too much to people’s advice when they really didn’t have the best interest of my company at heart. Instead of sticking with the tight group of people that actually knew my product, I went outside of that. This is not me talking about my advisory board, this is about the people who literally had no connection to RapidCommittee yet I was listening to them when I shouldn’t have been. Although it is good to build your network there is a time where you have to be the entrepreneur that says I am running this business and this is what we should do and just go. The low point was when I took us on a detour that literally made no sense at all.
BC: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
CK: Reading technical books. There is just something about it that I love. I get so much out of it, and feel that anyone who is a practicing developer needs to learn to read and learn as much as you can about your craft. Also, I play sports. I hate watching sports, but I love playing them. I play basketball.
BC: What would you say to someone who is considering building their own company? Any advice
CK: Number one: educate yourself about your domain as much as possible. Number two: Learn about strategy and sales. Number three: do something.
If you would like to know more about RapidCommittee, you can visit RapidCommittee’s website.