Q&A With New Thinkspace Startup: brandbuddee

One of the best things about thinkspace is that we’re always growing! Today, a brand new startup called brandbuddee is moving in and calling our coworking space “home”. Andy Karuza, CEO of brandbuddee, took a few minutes to tell me about this exciting new project.

What is your company, and what do you do?
brandbuddee allows you to discover interesting stories from your favorite brands, share them on any network, and earn rewards. Our platform is entirely run off a fun bartering system where the rewards you want are traded for word-of-mouth in the form of content shared on the web. We’re pretty strict on the type of content and the brands that can be shared through brandbuddee.

How did your company start?
We started with the idea a little over two years ago, most of the time was spent looking for the right team. Once you find that, everything seems to fall in line. Most of the progress on our project has happened in the last two months and it has moved quickly ever since.

Who is on your team?
Andrew Vest, Russ Oja (a current resident at Thinkspace), Keith Prunella, and I are all partners at brandbuddee. We have several other team members that wish to remain anonymous at this time :)

How much funding have you raised (if any), and from whom?
We’ve actually decided to do it all bootstrapped although we’ve received offers from several investors. At this point, we want to prove the validity of the product and then approach investors with a clear value proposition.

What is the most challenging thing about being an entreupreneur?
The most challenging thing I feel is to keep your team in line, everybody moving forward, etc. Emotional contagions can take down a team, but they can also pick everybody up and help them accomplish amazing things. There’s really a fine balancing point in how you handle relationships, which I think make or break any organization.

If there was one thing you could have done differently as an entreupreneur, what would it have been?
Never accept less than what you’re worth. I think a lot of entrepreneurs fall into that trap by getting stuck working with the wrong people, taking investor’s terms without any pushback, and the many other things that can steer you in the wrong direction from your vision. I myself tend to be a pretty easy going guy and sometimes I give people a little too much slack which leads to the detriment of progress. However, Andrew Vest and I play really well off each other and both have strong skills that offset our other weak areas. Like I said, the team is the most important. As an entrepreneur you should focus on finding the right people for your organization on all levels as that is the main thing that will make your dream become a reality.

What advice do you have for others thinking about building a startup of their own?
I think you have to approach something from every angle and test it. Life is all about the angle you take and the perspective you have. You should always be evaluating yourself, the progress of the startup, and the environment around you. Sometimes you have to know when you’re right, but you also need to be open to change. Things don’t usually work out the right time and that’s why the old saying goes, “The third time’s the charm”. That saying can be interpreted as the experience gained by your third try usually leads to the correct formula of success after eliminating the bad variables. At the end of the day, don’t give up. Your dream can become a reality, you just might not be approaching the problem from the right angle. Don’t be afraid to ask around, look at what other people are doing, or to do some basic evaluation on your own. brandbuddee had so many road blocks along the way, it would have been easy to stop, but we didn’t. And I know that we’ll have more road blocks to come, but we’ve just got to keep our eyes set on the destination. Like driving, you will never truly get lost if you know the direction you’re going, although you might have to take a couple detours to get there.

What are you most looking forward to about being part of the thinkspace community?
I’m looking forward to exactly that, the community. I’m all about the social scene, meeting new people, and sharing ideas. I think great things happen for everybody when you throw a bunch of entrepreneurs into the same building :)

Anything else you’d like to share?
I think my passion for brandbuddee really comes from my genuine interest in people and the brands that I’ve worked with. I see a lot more to a brand than meets the eye, I see a community, a personality, the people that make a living from the company, their kids that have their way through school funded, etc. It is my hope that we can create a better advertising solution, built off the power of the gift economy through sharing quality content that actually adds value to the online social ecosystem and that allows passionate fans to connect deeply with the brands they love. I know that the number one reason for people following a brand online is for rewards, community, and exclusive content. I know that the number one problem for most brands with social marketing is that they want more people talking about them and having a measurable impact. Like the prisoner’s dilemma, I think both world’s do better when they work together. Call it collaborative-based word-of-mouth marketing, or call me crazy, I guess that qualifies me to be an entrepreneur.

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