Founders’ Friday: Jeff Vitek, TimberListing
Hi, I’m Brandon and I will be taking over the Founder’s Friday Blog for Rachael. I hope that the Four Athens’ readers enjoy my work as much as they enjoyed Rachael’s. Today’s featured Friday founder is Jeff Vitek from TimberListing. I got the chance to sit down and talk to him about his timber auctioning website and the reasons that led him to starting his company.
Founder: Jeff Vitek
BC: Tell me a little bit about your startup:
JV: TimberListing is an online website for standing timber auctions. Right now there is not a whole lot of trust and transparency between foresters and tree farm owners. TimberListing is basically an online auction site designed to solve the issue of the current system for selling standard timber and the lack of transparency between the owners, the middle men and the buyers involved in this industry.
BC: Where did the idea come from?
JV: My family invests in tree farms and as we were selling a tract of trees we came up with this idea. The current process seemed more complicated than it had to be. You had to hire a forester, get the forester to come out there, and then the forester does the entire sales process on his own. The sales process was based on the ‘good old boys system’ where you don’t quite know if you are getting a fair price. So, instead I decided to open up the process to everyone by putting it online and allowing everyone to bid on timber thus insuring fair prices.
BC: Why should your target audience use your company and not someone else’s?
JV: There is no other alternative if you want to do it online and do it yourself. There are places you can sell the land, but there are no other auction sites that are tailored to selling just the trees
BC: What motivated you to get started?
JV: Seeing my family trying to sell the tracts and wondering if we were getting the best deal. I decided that we could reach out to more people and find better ways to get the best possible deals. I realized that the best solution was to continue to let the buyer see the actual land on the site, but also let the seller see every bid that comes in.
BC: What is the most significant thing you have learned in the process of building your company that you didn’t know when you first started?
JV: I would say the most significant thing I have learned is the importance of fiscal responsibility. Knowing that I have other people’s money invested in my company, I have to find the best way to spend that money. Having people trust me with such large amounts of money was something new to me.
BC: Has there ever been a point where you considered giving up on your dream?
JV: Yeah, I think every business owner goes through that at the beginning when you are not making money and your business is kind of bleeding you a little bit. That’s just how the system works.
BC: What has been the highlight of working with your startup so far?
JV: I had a friend who is the same age as me and when I told her about my company the next day she cut me a check for $6,000. She said she wanted in on it and if I ever started another business she wanted in from the very start and was willing to fully fund future ventures.
BC: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
JV: I like to go out and go dancing. When I did my undergrad at Emory, I helped start a break dancing group. So I will just go out to one of the clubs here in Athens and I’ll break it down a little bit. I have a blast doing that. I competed as a gymnast during my undergrad and it just kind of flowed into break dancing easily.
BC: What would you say to someone who is considering building their own startup?
JV: Just do it. If you have an idea and you know that it is going to work, you should pursue it. You get a certain feeling when you come up with a great idea. If you have the feeling that it is not going to work, tweak it and then try it again. Stick to your guns and just get started.
BC: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your startup?
JV: I am still looking for someone to help me pivot my company into a timber management system. If you are somebody that knows how to code and are interested in partnering with me, I would be happy to consider it.
To learn more about Timber Listing and to get updates, you can visit its Facebook page.