Can You Really Build a Business out of Good Conversation?
Greg Svitak, Co-Founder of FLock’d Photo by:G.Svitak
What if you could grow your dream in your own backyard or quit your job to fly with your own flock? For Greg Svitak, co-founder of Flock’d, it all started with an idea, a phone call, a bus, and some friends. Greg is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Beginning this week, the 37-year-old will officially be living the startup dream.
I sat down with Greg at Loop, a local coffee shop in Cleveland’s Tremont to discuss his story. We chatted over his choice of a skinny iced mocha and my soy iced chai, which is now a favorite thanks to the amazing staff recommendations to the recipe.
Talking with Greg was like chatting it up with an old friend. He’s a down to Earth kind of guy who is interested in doing his civic duty by encouraging local startups through mentoring and connecting people through his network. Greg, a product of Cleveland, likes keeping things in the local Ohio Loop. He’s worked with Cleveland Bridge Builders, a program that teaches civic engagement, to help him be more effective at something he says he has a great passion for.
Loop Coffee shop in Cleveland’s Tremont areaPhoto by: L.Borland
As he continued on with his story about connecting, a text message came across his iPhone acknowledging a great meeting and thanking him for the connections that were passed along.
Greg, who holds an MBA from Case Western Reserve and BBA and MIS degrees from Ohio University, started connecting the dots back in September of 2010. He wanted to be with like-minded entrepreneurs and he felt moving to Austin, Texas would get him what he was looking for. Greg was a solutions analyst for the office of the CTO at Hyland Software. He spent almost 9 years at Hyland launching dozens of products. He loved his job, but he was looking from something more to startup.
Thanks to his good friend Aaron LeMeiux, CEO and co-founder of nPower PEG technology of Tremont Electric and his convincing conversations of how he started up in Cleveland; Greg was convinced to stay longer. He loaded Greg’s mind with hope and good conversation.
Despite however happy Aaron was; he voiced his opinion of discontent about how he’s worked hard to bring people to the Tremont area, yet he’s never been rewarded for it. This conversation generated a spark, which for Greg, turned out to be an idea worth chasing. Greg began incubating the idea. He was calling it Flock’d.
The following spring of 2011 Greg’s friend, Anthony Broad Crawford, whom he met while planning a startup weekend event for Cleveland 2 years earlier, was now going to be a conductor on the Startup Bus. Anthony was a participant on the inaugural Startup Bus trip from San Francisco to Austin a year earlier.
The Startup Bus was brought into existence through; you guessed it, a conversation that, at the time, was only a joke. Elias Bizannes is from Australia. He and some others chatted up a conversation about creating a startup camp in the U.S. In 2010, the first Startup Bus left San Francisco bound for Austin. The bustrepreurs had 72 hours on the road to come up with a viable product for a business to pitch to investors at the SXSW, South by South West, conference in Austin upon arrival.
Greg’s friend, Anthony Broad Crawford, placed a phone call and asked Greg to join him on the Startup Bus trip to the SXSW conference in 2011. Wikipedia describes SXSW Interactive as a conference, “focused on emerging technology…a focus which has earned the festival a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies.”
Greg was on the Cleveland bus, one of 6 buses in the 2011 brigade departing from San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Chicago, New York, Miami and Cleveland.
Although Greg didn’t win the competition, he says, “This event changed my life.” He says, “The bus is a metaphor.” People get on the bus for the experience and the networking. It helps make starting it up possible. Through this experience Greg realized when he got to Austin and met with the other techies from Silicon Valley that, “I’m no different than them.”
After traveling on the bus as a bustrepreneur, Greg, was invited to conduct the 2012 Ohio Startup bus for the 1500mile journey in March. He wanted to be a part of the experience for the other bustrepreneurs and help foster and mentor a startup community not only for the city of Cleveland, but also for the entire state. This years bus, morphed to be the Cincinnati bus, represented Ohio with people from Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.
Conductors are responsible for raising money to sponsor the bus trip. One of the many meetings that Greg had was with Michael Bott and the team from Brandery, a seed stage marketing venture accelerator. They’re one of the top 10 programs in the United States. The Brandery connection led Greg to apply for this year’s startup class. This past week, Brandery announced Flock’d as one of 11 startups in the 2012 class.
So what makes Greg different from the average Joe or Jo-ella. He says, “I’m a geek that likes to socialize and connect people. I think that makes me different.” One of his favorite things is random collaboration between people who just hit it off. He makes that pretty easy.
Greg’s empty seat at LoopPhoto by: L.Borland
The seat across from me sat empty after Greg stood up and announced, “I’m off to get on another bus.” Ironically The Limes played in the background and the lyrics to “Don’t Have a Car” rang out…”went to the Greyhound, found a big bus, headed on down the road…we’ve got 1500 miles, I feel inspired.” His stardust left a shine that sparkled just like his smile as he raced off to live the startup dream.
YoYoTECHit is connecting the dots with stories on the startup trail…a phone call, an idea, a bus and some friends started Greg on his journey. He can be found flying with his flock in Cincinnati. He leaves this week to start-up his partnership at Brandery with his idea called Flock’d. YoYoTECHit wishes him the best of luck. Somehow, I don’t think he’s going to need it.
Article first published as Random Collaboration…Everything Happens For A Reason on Technorati.