Feb. 20 kicked off the third annual PHX Startup Week in Arizona. During the five-day event, entrepreneurs and leaders from around the state gathered to share experiences, participate in debates, attend live panels and access resources that would help them take their businesses to the next level. Best of all, the entire event was free.
Mike Guggemos, chief information officer at Insight, and Tim Crown, co-founder/chairman of Insight and partner of AZ Crown Investments, were the keynote speakers for opening day. Insight Enterprises Inc. is a Fortune 500 global-technology company based in Tempe that employs more than 5,700 people and provides Intelligent Technology Solutions to help businesses run smarter.
That afternoon, small business enthusiasts hurried to the cinema room to hear what Mike and Tim had to say. Zach Ferres, chief executive officer at Coplex, was the facilitator.
After thanking everyone for attending, Zach started the discussion with a simple question directed at Mike, “Why are you here today?”
Mike: Insight is a big company, but every big company starts small and in this room right now, somebody is going to be sitting in this chair one day. One of you may very well be here in my chair one day. Everybody who is willing to take the right risks, has the opportunity to do that, create something significant. But also, you are our future clients. As companies grow and gain magnitude, we want to have that relationship with you to help foster that growth.
Zach: So Tim, what’s your story? How did you get started?
Tim: My first year of college I went to work for a big computer company. My first 10 months I realized that wasn’t for me. So, I packed up all my stuff and drove west to meet my brother at Arizona State and we started Insight. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we took a cash advancement of about $2,000 and placed an ad on the back of a computer shopper magazine. If we could sell 50 hard drives, we would have made some profit. Well, we ended up selling 300 that first month and the rest, as they say, kind of escalated.
Zach: What advice would you give to people who are currently in a corporate job and are thinking about entrepreneurship?
Mike: The desire to do something different and always learn, I think, is inherent for certain people, and entrepreneurs tend to be that way and if you’re at a large scale company and have that drive…. Go talk to somebody and start thinking about how you can create that next generation of how that company is. [For me] what was enticing was the idea of making something new. What is it that drives you?
Tim: Find an underserved segment in the market you’re interested in and become the dominant member of that section. You’re gonna run up a lot of hills before you find the one you belong to. I’ve never found an easy business. It’s never easy. You have to be true to your personality and never be boring. Had we not tried new things, failed and taken risks, we never would have found our pot of gold.
Zach: What is your modern portrayal of what entrepreneurship is?
Tim: It’s whatever you want it to be, but entrepreneurs also see a way something can be done faster, stronger [and] better.
Mike: I think it’s taking advantage of energy and opportunity. Successful entrepreneurs have that energy — they’re always looking for something new and believe in themselves more than anybody else around them. They’re constantly looking for opportunities to explore and grow.
Zach: What are some misconceptions about startups?
Mike: I think there are two [misconceptions]. One, is that there’s a plan. In reality there’s no methodology. You’re just going to have to figure it out as you go, that’s the reality of it. You might have a phenomenal idea you believe it to your core. And you might push ahead, but then have to stop when you realize you’re off 15 degrees. You have to be willing to adjust and you just can’t give up. Second, is [the misconception] that you should back off sometimes. No. Keep having luncheons and keep connecting. You’re going to find one network that will make it for you — and that could take years. If you truly believe in [your business], you have to keep going.
Mike and Tim understand the time, effort and resources that go into turning an idea into a scalable business. That’s why they continue to share advice and lessons learned with the Phoenix-area business community. As an organization “born in a garage”, Insight is just one example of a Valley-based startup making it big, and events like PHX Startup Week help local businesses work toward achieving their goals.