Founders: Mike Preuss, Brad Wisler, Kristian Andersen, Mike Fitzgerald, Mike Trotzke
Company Description: Technology platform that simplifies the sharing, management and reporting of data between startups and investors.
Company Site: https://visible.vc/; Twitter
Date of Interview: March 2015
Mike Preuss is the CEO and co-founder of Visible, a technology platform that simplifies the sharing, management and reporting of data between startups and investors. He loves data, startups, venture capital, finance and technology – and has created a product that brings it all together. You can check out more of his thoughts on the investor and founder relationship here.
On how he got into startups and Visible:
Mike has always been interested in technology and how technology enables businesses to be built on “knowledge instead of physical assets.”
In high school, he got into video-editing and began creating highlight reel videos for his dad’s cross country team. His skills got him some local attention, and he started doing more videos for other school sports teams and individuals.
To keep feeding his entrepreneurial spirit, he enrolled in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business to study entrepreneurship and applied to the Orr Fellowship his senior year of college. Through the Orr Fellowship, he landed a position with Formspring and followed the company out to San Francisco for a few years. There, he got experience in business development at a fast growing, highly funded startup. He rode that roller coaster until 2012, shortly before the company sold. Around that time, he was approached by investors who shared their idea for Visible. The idea really struck a chord with Mike and two years later he has led Visible from 1 to 7 employees, closed 2 rounds of funding and acquired a few thousand customers on the platform.
On coming back to Chicago:
While Mike’s time in San Francisco gave him critical experience and growth, he wanted to bring Visible back to its mid-western roots.
“There is a huge tech echo chamber in San Francisco that I loved, but it is also great to build a business outside of it.” Mike appreciates and enjoys the variety of experience and ideas that are inspiring the Chicago ecosystem and is excited by the “opportunity that entrepreneurs and technology have to make an impact in the Chicago economy.”
On the founder and investor relationship:
Mike says the most common mistake founders make is that they do not share enough with their investors.
“Founders are scared to share bad news. You only want to share amazing news – but the reality is that startups don’t have amazing news to share that often because it is really hard to build a company. You’re scared to share with your investors, but your investors have seen a lot of companies and can usually help out before things get really bad. It’s really helpful to be transparent with your investors. I know… I’m incredibly biased!”
On being a CEO:
While many experiences of being the CEO and an early startup team member are similar, Mike says the main difference is that the “highs are higher and the lows are lower.”
“It’s a roller coaster. It’s a lot of fun and amazing one week, but then the next week you think it’s never going to work. Now that I’m a CEO, it just amplifies everything more – the highs are higher and the lows are lower.”
“I’m responsible for building a team and setting the vision for the company. It’s a lot of fun. Everyone is together and you’re building a culture and a company. You can wake up and work on what you want to work on.”
On how to get investment:
Mike reminds that the most important quality in a founder is being able to execute, not to come up with ideas.
“Ideas really don’t mean anything -it’s all about the execution.”
“The idea is guaranteed to change in the first year. No investor is just going to invest in an idea. They’re going to invest in the team and the execution and any traction you have to date. Figure out what is the least you can do to to prove you can execute on something.”
On what you learn:
“If I started the company today, I probably could build in 9 months the business we’ve built in 2 years. There’s just a lot of stuff to learn the first time.”
“At first, I was really scared to spend money. But I’ve learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to spend money to grow the business.”
“I’ve also learned that hiring is really hard. It’s one of those things that you always read about, but I never had to go through that pain point- and now I get it.”
Mike is building Visible to be the “defacto platform of choice to visualize, track and share key metrics and updates with stakeholders.” When he isn’t doing that, you may find him cheering for a Chicago sports team or enjoying Lagunitas Brewing Company. And, if he wasn’t only investing in Visible right now, he’d likely look to invest in Charlie App, Avant Credit and Public Good – of course he would find out how they’re doing by using Visible.