Entrepreneurship has its ups and downs. Laughing one minute, crying the next. Well, hopefully not too much crying.
For Slingr founder and CEO Grace Schroeder, entrepreneurship has been a process of perpetual learning.
We sat down with Grace and uncovered some of the keys to her entrepreneurial success.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What inspired you to found Slingr?
In my life, I’ve always been interested in continuous improvement. When I was a kid, I organized my books in the Dewey Decimal System and made my brother and sister check them out whenever they wanted to borrow them. Clearly I was a blast to have as a sibling!
I’ve taken this focus on continuous improvement to every job that I’ve had, even when it wasn't always welcome – and sometimes painfully unwelcome. I became attracted to technology in particular because it enables companies to find better ways to work. I tried to apply technological solutions to every problem that I saw.
Once I learned how large companies operate – and what caused things to either stop or slow down – I started to form the idea that there had to be a better way to develop the exact technology that an application needed, versus buying off-the-shelf technology.
What I soon realized was that CIOs and CTOs tended to minimize the number of vendors they dealt with, making the whole organization use the same technology stack. They buy some software and they try to implement it, often with the help of a big consulting firm that charges a pretty penny. But three to five years, it’s a flop: no one’s using it. The outcome of this is, for example, a spreadsheet department where people are running the same Excel macros month in, month out. Lots of button clicking, not a lot of button doing.
The original notion was to develop a solution for creating custom business automations faster than a one-size-fits-all product. We wanted to figure out how to make a platform that is super flexible so we can have data relationships in whatever form they need to solve a business problem. From that point, we began to work on what is now Slingr.
What does the future of low-code look like to you?
I think that low-code will become part of a technology stack in the same way that off-the-shelf products like Salesforce and ERPs have. Marketing automation platforms have become part of the stack already, and I think that people will understand that low-code platforms should too.
If I really whip out my crystal ball and look longer term, I think companies will start building their own low-code platforms, like ADP has done. Alternatively, they’ll buy them in order to competitively differentiate themselves and accelerate their technical interactions with their customers beyond what their competitors might be able to do.
What challenges have you overcome in your entrepreneurial career, and what lessons did you learn from them?
I came into this really not knowing how to create a software platform, or understanding a traditional go-to-market path. Building our platform was a ginormous technical saga that took a lot of time and money. I had no idea what I was getting myself into!
Had I been smarter, would I have chosen this path? The answer is probably not. But in part it was this same ‘ignorance,’ if you want to call it that, which led us to the happy accident of landing on the platform we have today.
Along the way, we’ve made mistakes. But we’ve also been very lucky in sourcing great talent and not having to develop large sales structures.
What advice would you give less experienced tech founders?
It’s important to listen to yourself. It can be helpful to have mentors advising you, but at a certain point it’s about recognizing that you know what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. Then it’s about getting comfortable rising and falling on your own victories and mistakes.
Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is key because that’s where the advancements come. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
What about the future most excites you?
I'm most excited to continue to grow the platform side of the business and the services side of the business.
Traditionally, most people would just focus on platform revenue, because that’s where you’re going to get your multiples. Call us crazy, but we like to focus on what the humans in our company actually like to do. Some like to work on low-code environments, while some prefer to dive into the waters of custom coding, and others are interested in exploring AI.
I view Slingr as a place that can provide people with options. Employees don't have to leave us to get the career advancement that they want, if they like where they are. I believe it’s our job to understand what people want to do next, and bring those opportunities to them. That way, they don’t have to upend their lives every time they want to work on a different technology or gain new work experiences.
That’s different from everyone else. And maybe that’s stupid. But ‘stupid’ is what got us where we are!