REPEAT is a special interview series underwritten by CliftonLarsonAllen where we take a deep dive inside the minds of Minnesota’s rare repeat technology entrepreneurs. Repeat means to start a tech company, exit said company, and return start another one.
Lisa Schneegans and Klaus Schneegans are not only unique for their previous start and sale of software company Praxis to SAP in 2006, but also because they operate together in life and in business, married in both respects. Back at it now, their current pursuit is Buzz360, a platform for SMBs, conservative campaigns, and similar organizations who want to connect with constituents. Part 1 can be read here.
What was your previous company, Praxis about?
Lisa: Praxis Software Solutions was an ecommerce/CRM technology company. We partnered with SAP Business One. Klaus and I ran the company together to the point where we were selling in 32 countries with about 10 people. The highlight was receiving the Pinnacle Award in Paris for our global accomplishments in 2006. Shortly thereafter, SAP bought the company.
What did you do after selling?
Klaus: We worked for SAP for several years after the acquisition. We also got into real estate investing on the side to scratch our entrepreneurial itch for a few years.
When and how did you get into your current endeavor, Buzz360?
Lisa: We started in the software world again with a sort of Angie’s List competitor. That idea came from conversations we were having with our contractors about their needs. But that didn’t go so great so we pivoted into Buzz360 at the end of 2015, rewriting code and started selling in Q2 of 2016.
Stepping back, why the decision to start another tech company?
Klaus: we saw that we could help people and believed we had the potential to start and sell another company that was focused on the SMB market.
What did you learn from your prior startup experience that you brought to this one?
Klaus: Documentation! Big software companies don’t buy software that isn’t documented.
Lisa: For me, it was market acceptance, and so we got the product out there early and learned pretty quickly who our market was.
How’s that going so far?
Lisa: As I alluded to above, we thought that we were going to focus on small business when it started. But what we found is that there’s a nice niche in political and advocacy marketing using the networked and tiered approach that the software provides. So that’s been going really well for us, we have between 40-70% of the market share in Minnesota and North Dakota, and are now selling in New Hampshire.
What’s that like selling into politics?
Lisa: let’s just say it’s an interesting market and they are very particular about party lines all around so we picked a side and stuck with it.
What do you think would you be doing today if not running a tech startup?
Klaus: Driving our 1984 Porsche around the country taking photos. :)
What is the best part about being entrepreneurs?
Lisa: When you succeed, either a sale or new development of a cool feature. And the creativity you must have to find different ways to accomplish your goals.
Entrepreneurship requires a lot of resources, and stamina, and risk…how do you manage those things and what keeps you going through the hard parts?
Lisa: The fear is hard to manage at times but with strong faith, grit and tenaciousness, you just keep going to get to the other side.
Do you think entrepreneurs are born different, molded into it, or both?
Klaus: That is an interesting question! As a German I have always been amazed of how much more enterprising and independent minded people in this country are. I believe the origin of that is in 2 things, 1. Those who came here were driven to improve their lot in life and took huge risks for that. So from that stock comes a society of entrepreneurs. And 2. Once you are born with that type of orientation, a fundamentally entrepreneurial society encourages you to follow your dreams. So, I think it is both, genes and societal encouragement.
How many kids do you have and have your entrepreneurial ways rubbed off on them?
Klaus: We have four kids between us. One is entrepreneurial in spirit.
What advice do you have for the aspiring/emerging tech entrepreneurs out there?
Lisa: Create a network of people you can use for advisors. Your professional connections are invaluable. Your idea or product is only a small part. Like with everything, there will be hard times, but never give up!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Lisa – During a hard point in my life, I faced some pretty big challenges. Some terrific people told me to personalize the “problem” and to not let the bastard win. I have used that trick many times in my life. So when it gets tough, don’t let the bastard win!