Erin Newkirk is the co founder and CEO of Red Stamp, a mobile/ social commerce company “on a mission to make relationships stronger, one personalized post at a time.” Red Stamp was formed in 2005 and acquired last month by The Occasions Group, a milestone to celebrate next week.
Did you ever envision that Red Stamp would be acquired or was it part of the master plan?
I think in the beginning, and to get you through the really rough stretches, every entrepreneur dreams of the insanely exciting exit, where you have multiple companies groveling at your feet, wooing you with promises of a security, fame and fortune.
But as Red Stamp grew, I fell in love with our product and realized that if I was going to sell, it had to be to the right buyer who had a similar dream and would work with us to take care of our product, users, team, and partners. At Red Stamp, we had lots of big, sparkly conversations, but when it came down to it, my number one goal was to find a company that would take our mission to the next level. We very quickly morphed from an “us” win to a “user” win.
At what point did you realize that you had developed an asset that was worth something to someone else?
Finding a great fit with mobile was huge. Red Stamp had a solid offering with our old website and in e-commerce, but once we realized how mobile could build on our mission to solve real life problems, we knew we were onto something. That is where our iOS app really helped gain traction and momentum. When we launched the iOS native app, I walked into my co-founders office, looked at her and said, “This is it. This is what we’ve been working for.” With this platform, we could answer our clients’ needs ands wants, and that was quickly proven with the downloads and amazing reviews came flooding in at launch. We realized we had cracked the code on what would help us stand out and apart. It all goes back to doing all that we do for our clients :: making their lives and their relationships stronger. We are continually pushing the boundaries of technology and building a valuable asset that has real traction and business value.
What did you learn from the experience?
Where to begin?! As an entrepreneur and a company as a whole, we collectively learned so much. I think lesson number one is that if you start out solving a real life problem, demand will follow. Big time. Red Stamp was just recently named one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 100 Most Brilliant Companies, mainly because we aren’t the company that’s just about sending cards from your phone…we are about Making Relationships Stronger. Having a mission that really resonates with people is invaluable. It’s not about the product, it’s about what the product does and how it makes people feel. Secondly, there are no mistakes, only missteps that present a new opportunity. You just need to figure out what the best market application is for what you develop. Third, make sure you have a solid team that is as invested as you are. You are only as good as your weakest team member.
What advice would you have to entrepreneurs starting and building a company that could someday be acquired?
Don’t think of it as building a company that could someday be acquired. :) Be amazing and build something totally self-sufficient. Build a company that speaks to you, that drives you, and that monetizes from day one.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Be kind. Be collaborative. I just gave this advice during Alumni Day at my MBA program. And it’s just as relevant to our community of start-ups and entrepreneurs :: “Get to know your classmates . HELP EACH OTHER OUT for goodness sakes. By helping someone else, you are truly helping yourself. Relationships in this world are the #1 competitive edge, so make sure you make some among these really talented people.”