Square One DSM Accelerator Applications

Following our recent announcement of the Square One DSM accelerator, I am pleased to provide the application process. 

Any company that wishes to apply to the Square One DSM accelerator should fill out these two documents completely and return them to mike (at) squareonedsm.com.  

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. 

Square One DSM Application

Square One Assessment Sheet

Volunteer Local’s Kaylee Williams Stops by Square One DSM

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“I love where this road is taking me and I don’t know where it will go. For me that is part of the allure of working for a start-up company. I love the mystery and not knowing how this thing will pop, when it will pop, and what will that look like,” ruminated Kaylee Williams while artfully dodging the question of her future career ambitions with her boss in the room. Still, one could not question the sincerity of this youthful entrepreneurial success story as she reflected on what has become a career path, joining a local start-up out of college as an intern and working her way to managing its day to day operations while leading it through an impressive growth cycle.

Williams, officially Director of Business Development for Volunteer Local, was making a return appearance before a large and supportive audience as guest of Mike Colwell, Director of Entrepreneurial Initiatives for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, at the May iteration of Square One DSM’s Start-Up Stories.

The year since her last appearance saw both considerable growth for Volunteer Local and a change of venue for Williams. “I’ve been MIA for the last year, living in Raleigh North Carolina,” explained Williams before beginning to answer questions from both Colwell and the audience on a range of subjects.

On working remotely: Being an on-line software-as-a-service, one could argue that Volunteer Local was wherever Kaylee Williams opened her laptop. Never-the-less, founder and chief developer Brian Hemesath remains integral to the business, and remains a fixture in Des Moines as Director of the Global Insurance Accelerator (and June guest at Start-Up Stories). This physical separation required several changes for Williams’s routine.

“Find a space where you can get work done,” advises Williams first and foremost for anyone considering such a change. Initially utilizing co-working space in Google’s American Underground in Raleigh, she soon realized her constant phone conversations were as much of an annoyance to those around her as was the sound of their racer scooters moving through the workspace was to her. “You need a place where you can go and close the door,” she argued. And behind that door you must utilize the phone and the email to maintain communication with your business partner. While it will not always be as beneficial as those face to face, spur of the moment discussions, maintaining regular communication is critical. Adding a healthy dose of self-discipline to the mix Williams and Hemesath identified key metrics that would track Williams and the company’s progress which Williams then used to form the basis of a weekly update, providing a touch point for conversations.

On their sharp growth curve: The past year has seen an accelerated growth curve for this start-up which provides tiered online solutions for the volunteer management challenges faced by events and organizations of all sizes. Providing three insights into the strategy that has led to that growth, Williams shared that they reviewed who was using the top tier iteration of the software, the version most replete with functionality and the one which generates revenue for Volunteer Local. With that they identified four primary markets; music festivals, athletic organizations, colleges, and not-for-profits. Additionally they began to target national “umbrella” organizations within those markets which would then supply the product to their local affiliates either at a discount or for no charge, thereby serving essentially as a marketer and distributor for Volunteer Local. Finally, targeting some really high profile clients in their respective vertical markets, such as the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, has led to their most successful marketing scheme to date; referral by word of mouth.

On the art of the sale: Admitting that she once viewed sales as a nasty word she couldn’t ever see herself in that role, Williams acknowledged that her success in that arena came as a surprise. “I came to realize that you are not really selling, you are solving their problem, and I really like to solve our customer’s problems,” she explained of her revelation that sales could be fun.

On bootstrapping: Asked why Volunteer Local had not sought outside investment funding, Williams was to the point, “We didn’t need it, we bootstrapped the company.” Not ruling out the possibility at some future point, Williams and Colwell enumerated the advantages of self-funding when possible, not the least of which was to grow the company in the direction and on the timeline of choosing by the principals, rather than the investors.

On dual citizenship: With deep ties to Iowa, Williams remains a frequent visitor while finding unique value in both her abodes. “The research triangle is obviously larger and there is a lot more going on,” she said of Raleigh recalling her first experience with an entire room filled exclusively with women entrepreneurs. The sheer size leads to cliques within the community with developers, business development types and marketers associating mostly with themselves. “I took a lot from Des Moines to Raleigh, I was that annoying girl always talking about Iowa,” she said of her willingness to share stories of the Silicon Prairie with her Research Triangle associates.

“The Raleigh community at large is very supportive of the start-up community in many ways,” she said of the things she might hope to bring from Raleigh to Des Moines. What seemed most important to the Des Moines entrepreneurial community present this day was that she continue to bring herself from Raleigh to Des Moines.

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