Mentor in the Room: Augie Grasis, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Handmark


Today, we speak with Women Innovate Mobile Mentor, Augie Grasis.


Named the 2009 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® Award Winner in the Central Midwest Technology category, Augie Grasis is an established entrepreneur known for his savvy business approach and industry-changing ideas.  Since founding Handmark in 2000, Grasis has played an important role in defining the mobile content industry and changing the way people use their mobile phones. Currently Chairman of the Board of Handmark, Grasis remains deeply engaged in the day-to-day business, leveraging his experience to advance the company’s position as a leading developer and distributor of mobile applications and services, supporting some of the largest brands in the world.  Prior to Handmark, Grasis founded Foresight Resources (later acquired by Autodesk) where he led industry-first initiatives in the CAD and Home Design software business.

What’s the worst mistake a founder can make?

Choosing partners who are incompatible or not trustworthy.  It’s important to set expectations and roles early in the relationship.  Too much critical company-building time is wasted in startups dealing with interpersonal issues.

What’s the most common startup error?

Inventing a product or service that is not compelling enough to change customer behavior.  You must create painkillers, not vitamins.

startup mentor augie grasis

Augie Grasis

Getting your product to market at a minimal cost and time commitment to learn whether or not your idea will fly, then walking away if it doesn’t.  While recent thinking is you must quickly abandon ideas that don’t immediately gain traction, there are many success stories of perseverance that ultimately end in a very successful outcome.

If you could fix one thing in the startup ecosystem right now, what would it be?

The traditional venture capital model does not match the bulk of companies being founded now because VC liquidity requires sale of the business or IPO.  Under today’s low-friction tech business environment, companies that employ 5-10 people profitably, successfully and operate long term can be created, but the funding mechanism for these doesn’t readily exist.

What should startups be focusing on in 2013?

Getting to revenue and profit with minimal investment.

When’s the right time to seek funding?

When your idea/product is proven and you need money to scale.  Don’t raise money because you can or because everyone else does it.

Thoughts on crowdfunding?

It’s a natural step in today’s socially driven world.  And it’s cool for individuals to be able to invest in ideas they believe in.  It will be interesting to see 5-10 years out what the return is for those who invest this way.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Your product idea must be a painkiller, not a vitamin, if you expect it to succeed.

Guess who’s coming for dinner.  Who would be your dream dinner guest(s) and why?

Lance Armstrong.  We would go for a bike ride, eat dinner and he would tell me what really went on during the Tour!

Reprinted by permission.



About the author: Women Innovate Mobile

Women Innovate Mobile (WIM) is the first startup accelerator focused exclusively on launching and accelerating the growth of women-founded companies in mobile technology. Through its network of mobile experts, mentors and investors, WIM provides women entrepreneurs with the tools, feedback and connections needed to launch and scale their mobile ventures.

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