Enabling founders to get a holistic understanding of their companies' financial health.
Role: Co-founder, CEO
Could you give a bit of context for the problem Bluelight is solving?
If you look at the history of industry, founders always pour money into R & D to keep their product ahead of everyone else's guided by the principle that the best product wins. But we want founders to pay attention to the financial health of their business – not just the product and user health. Because, ultimately, in every industry, it’s a zero sum game. There reaches a point where the market size itself plateaus and companies compete for the largest slice of a stagnant pie, or “existing wallet.” It’s become an inevitable outcome of how industries evolve.
Stew, Dixon, and I want to help founders get a holistic understanding of the financial health of their businesses. This type of reframing can change how entire industries evolve.
How do you complement one another? Both skill-wise and personality-wise?
Building this software requires a strong familiarity with the startup & VC ecosystem – which is where my expertise is. It also requires being able to handle large datasets, which is Stew’s bread and butter. Lastly, we need strong backend architecture for data systems to communicate with one another – for data to go from one place to the next. That’s Dixon’s bread & butter.
In terms of personality, we hold very similar values – accountability, integrity, and diligence. We our partnership – working well together – is never a challenge.
But in terms of complementary differences, there’s been a healthy tug & pull between those who want to execute and deliver as quickly as possible and those who want to be a bit more delicate and deliberate, prioritizing quality over speed.
What was it like to transition from VC to actually building a startup?
It was a huge shift; the muscles you flex are completely different. As an investor you’re looking at the product but also panning out much larger – looking at the market, the business model, how the financials play out. But as a seed-stage founder, everything is about the product. Being so meticulously detailed about our actual product – the user experience, the structure – has allowed me to grow a much different skill set.
What’s the best piece of user feedback you’ve gotten so far?
It was quite unexpected, actually. Common wisdom in UI design is to make it the interface as simple as possible – so that’s what defined our first iterations. But we recently got some feedback from users who actually wanted more detail, telling us to err on the side of providing more information than necessary. This was interesting and helped us realize that our platform is serving 2 distinct groups; some, more seasoned founders who feel wired to decipher more information at once and newer founders who may feel overwhelmed by a flood of information.
What’s been the most exciting milestone you’ve hit as a team?
The first paying customer is always very exciting. We also recently secured a partnership with a tier 1 series A fund with over 500 portfolio companies. We’re starting out serving ~1% of their companies but hopefully we’ll expand and end up having all of them using the platform.
Is there a specific source of inspiration that keeps you pushing through tougher moments?
We’re all very curious individuals – which is a huge motivator. Of course, customers are also huge motivators.
But something else has been on my mind lately too. Some founders feel really driven to prove the investors who passed on them wrong – they’ll even keep rejection emails. I get that and all… but I’m more driven by wanting to prove our believers right. Whether it be investors or customers, I’m much more motivated by wanting to prove those who’ve taken a chance on us right.
What was it like to get into YC and what were the biggest takeaways from the program?
We were thrilled! Thrilled to be part of such a powerful community and to have access to and support from the YC partners as investors.
But not just investors in the traditional sense – they’re investors who are deeply concerned with your product, not just the financials of your company. YC really drilled into us that, at the end of the day, the main question is “Does the user love your product or not?""
One of the biggest takeaways was the culture of paying it forward. We got so much support from founders from previous batches and definitely want to eventually be able to give the same type of support to other founders down the line.
What’s a song or album that’s gotten you through 2020?
I really like the artist LAUV. If I had to choose a single song, I’d say Changes.
Favorite emoji or gif?
The dancing blob in Slack!