Why this CEO favors the struggles and perks of self-reliance in building his Seattle startup
Join It CEO Mitch Colleran, left, traveling in Spain with his partner, Jake. They in Valencia at the City of Arts & Sciences. (Photo courtesy of Mitch Colleran) While the path can be tougher and slower, Join It CEO Mitch Colleran leans toward going his own way, ducking the help of better known organizations and institutions.
When he launched his Seattle-based startup four years ago, Colleran didn’t have the coding skills he needed to write an app. He was confident that his idea for a company was a good one — he was building a cloud-based platform that allowed organizations to manage their memberships and synchronize their databases with other tools such as SurveyMonkey, MailChimp, Slack and Eventbrite.
Colleran had previously worked at Eventbrite for more than six years, leaving a role as product manager. In his interactions with customers in the nonprofit space, many wanted a tool to help them integrate different platforms to manage subscribers, but the only options available were costly packages from big companies that provided additional services they didn’t want.
Rather than return to school or raise money to hire someone else, a self-reliant Colleran started creating the app himself, breaking the task into discrete steps, posting questions to other engineers on Quora and Googling when he got stuck.
“It took me a good year to teach myself and have something that was a usable product,” he said. “It’s a harder way to start.”
Colleran, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Washington, opted to bootstrap the project rather than follow the path to venture capital.
Colleran picking up a Christmas tree in Paris, his temporary home-away-from-home while he participates in the French government’s Station F Founders Program for entrepreneurs. (Photo courtesy of Colleran) “With VC, you are asking someone else whether you can be in business, because you have to pitch them and get their money,” Colleran said. “If you chose to bootstrap, you are the master of your own destiny.”
Colleran has two employees and Join It has 1,000 customers worldwide. He’s currently participating in the French government-funded Station F Founders Program that supports entrepreneurs.
Colleran, who is gay, is also active with Start Out , an LGBTQ entrepreneurial program that he became involved with after graduation. He’s engaged with the community, offering product advice and helping with problems posed by other entrepreneurs.
As a gay startup founder, “it’s important to be visible, whether it’s as silly as including a rainbow in my Twitter profile,” Colleran said. “The visibility of seeing a gay man do what you want to do is affirming [if you’re LGBTQ]. I try to be aware of my visibility and try not to shy away from the fact that other people might be watching.”
We caught up with Colleran for this Working Geek, a regular...