Chris Camillo Talks about His Startups and the Crowdfunding Conference in Austin
Where are you from originally?
I moved to Texas from NY at age 14
What university did you go to?
Southern Methodist University
What is the idea behind your startup?
In early 2007, I invested $20k in the stock market, and in just over 3 years grew it to more than $2mm. My investing methodology is based simply on my ability to leverage physical and online networks to indentify trends faster than Wall Street. I’m not a stockbroker, financial analyst, nor hedge fund manager – yet in 2010 I became one of the world’s top ranked self-directed investors and was offered a publishing deal by MacMillan St. martin’s press to write an investment book. It’s called Laughing at Wall Street (laughingatwallstreet.com).
Beyond my investments in publicly traded companies, I have made a career of bringing new business concepts to market – most recently:
eCarList - an 80 employee automotive software and interactive marketing company that was sold in 2011 to publicly traded DealerTrack Inc. for $48mm. Launched in 2006 with 3 employees and $250k start-up capital. (I served as the company’s sole investor, Senior Partner, and COO)
TrueLinkswear – In just 2 years has evolved from a novel idea to one of the fastest growth golf shoe companies in North America- and in 2012 became the first shoe to run a marathon and win a PGA TOUR event in the same day. Launched in 2010 with $350k of start-up capital and virtually no marketing budget. (I served as lead seed round investor and active adviser to the company’s founders)
What need does it fulfill?
eCarList provides a SAAS platform for car dealers to manage and market their inventory more efficiently online. True Linkswear provides golfers with the ability to “feel the course” with a minimalist, super comfortable on-course / off-course golf shoe. Kind of what like what Vibram 5 finger shoes did for running.
What was the most challenging aspect of starting up?
Recruiting talent. As a bootstrap entrepreneur on a constrained budget your livelihood is dependent upon your ability to identify, recruit, and retain top talent – often at below market wages. This quickly becomes a game of trade offs. If successful, your staff’s resourcefulness, hunger to win, and commitment to your company’s mission more than compensates for their lack experience.
What is the next step for you and your business?
When looking into the future I see no bigger investment opportunity then the crowd-vetted deal-flow that will result from the legalization of crowdfund investing. My endeavor for 2013 is the production of Crowd of Angels - a documentary film following a small, scrappy group of ordinary Americans who, through collaboration and shared hope, successfully get one of the most important pieces of financial legislation in a century signed into law. Their efforts ignite a cultural crowdfunding movement of innovation that is energizing ordinary people of all socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities to follow their dreams, and to join others that they believe in.
I am a founding board member of the Crowdfunding Professional Association (CFPA) and recently became the Investment Subcommittee Co-Chair for the Crowdfund Intermediary Regulatory Advocates (CIFRA) where I will be working with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and other affected governmental and quasi-governmental entities to help establish industry standards and best practices for crowdfunding.
At the moment I am most excited about Crowdfund Texas, a conference I am hosting in partnership with the CFPA and Startup Texas this January 8th in Austin. Crowdfund Texas (crowdfundtx.com) is a premier crowdfunding conference showcasing America's most knowledgeable crowdfunding subject matter experts.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Stay focused on building the best possible product/service/company for your target customers. If you get that part right, all the other pieces (including your funding and exit strategy) will come together.
Deep pocketed, established competitors should never discourage you or overly influence your company’s roadmap. Those companies who keep you up at night would likely pay unimaginable sums to possess your company’s agility, culture, and freedom to think differently. Embrace your innate advantages as the nimble underdog and you very well might end up on the receiving end of a buyout offer from one of those mammoth sized competitors you once feared.
What resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
Google. I recently learned that Angel investors who conduct 20 hours of due diligence can expect an ROI of 1.1X while those that conduct 60 hours of due diligence can expect an ROI of 7X. If a future prospective investor will spend 60 hours researching your business how much time should you spend doing the same before launching your venture? I recently spent nearly 100 hours conducting Internet research on a new venture of mine before ultimately deciding to go another direction. What might seem to some like a lot of work prevented me from starting what would have been a dead-end venture that could have tied me and my capital up for years.