Lanford Holloway is the founder and CEO of TerraStride, one of the fastest-growing companies in America. TerraStride produces products for hunting/land management and large tract property sales. Their first app, HuntStand, is the world’s most widely-used hunting app with more than six million downloads and millions of active users. Their second app, TerraStride Pro, is used by land brokers all over the country to conduct research and create immersive and interactive virtual tours of large tracts of land.
In this interview, Lanford shares the story of how it all started for Terrastride, the early struggles and growth, and the importance of building your MVP. He muses on approaches to fundraising, and the challenges of finding and attracting talent as a software startup. He also discusses building a winning company culture, how to think about forming strategic partnerships, and the one piece of advice he would give himself if he was starting over.
Matt Vaadi is a serial entrepreneur. He’s the founder and CEO of ERG Payroll & HR, a company that helps small businesses streamline and automate their HR function. He’s also the founder and CEO of Grow by ERG, a digital marketing and SEO shop, as well as a founding member of GrowCo.
Watch their interview here:
1. Be ready to fail—but plan for two weeks of success
When he started working on TerraStride, Lanford struggled to accept the fact that despite his best effort it might all fail. At first, he tried to keep other career possibilities open but eventually realized his uncommitted mentality was holding him back.
“I had to come to terms with the fact that if I put my entire effort into this it could fail and I would have my name associated with it. Becoming okay with that was hard.”
He adds: “I had one foot in and one foot out. I realized it won’t be successful unless I give all of myself to it.”
Because failure can be so daunting, he advises founders looking to get to INC 5000 company status to focus on what’s right in front of them. “If you look at everything that you need to go right, you’ll convince yourself you shouldn’t even try.”
Instead, he recommends entrepreneurs to break up their future into two-weeks sprints. Ask yourself what you need to accomplish in the next two weeks, and focus on just those tasks. Rinse and repeat. Before you know it, your company growth will be farther along than you could have ever imagined.
2. Get comfortable asking for money—and do it the right way
No one likes asking people for money, and Lanford was no different when it was time to start looking for investors for TerraStride:
“I was almost embarrassed to go ask for money. You’re raised to believe that it’s rude to ask people for money. It’s hard.”
In order to do it successfully, you have to change the way you think about raising capital and company growth. You aren’t begging, you’re giving people an opportunity to make money.
“You have to shift your mindset to: You’re allowing people to invest in your company.”
Beyond having the right mindset, you also need to have the right approach to raising capital. Lanford points out that just like in any other group, there is a way things are done in the investment world, and if you don’t know your way around, it’s easy to get lost.
That’s one of the reasons he recommends GrowCo to other founders.
“Even if you have a good idea if you don’t know who to ask [for money] and how to ask it won’t matter. Groups like GrowCo can connect you with people who have played the game before.”
As Lanford points out, most successful people don’t fundamentally understand the world better than anyone else, they just know how to play their particular game very well. Raising capital is a game, and you need people who can teach you the rules.
3. Focus on your MVP
TO help your company work towards Inc 5000 company status, “Get your MVP out.”
Once you have an idea you’re committed to pursuing, your singular focus should be building a minimum viable product (MVP)—the most basic version of whatever it is you’re trying to create.
In Lanford’s case, his MVP was the first version of the HuntStand app. Your MVP isn’t supposed to be sexy. It’s not going to have all the bells and whistles.
Rather than trying to get everything perfect, just launch. Not only will you learn faster, but it will give you leverage to find investors and generate momentum. In Lanford’s case, their MVP earned 60,000 downloads—a metric that helped TerraStride raise much-needed capital even though they still had $0 in revenue.
When raising money, you’re constantly selling your previous success, because it derisks the investment for people. Having an MVP allows you to show meaningful progress, even if you aren’t earning revenue.
What started as an idea for a pitch competition in business school has now grown into one of the most successful private companies in the country. TerraStride was recently named to Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the fastest-growing private companies in the country at number 624th in the United States—and 4th overall in the state of South Carolina. TerraStride grew by 751% in company revenue from 2016 to 2019, making it the fastest-growing software company in the state of South Carolina to be listed by Inc. Magazine and ultimately an INC 5000 company.
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