SpinCar: Growing a Tech Startup in Central New York
Recently, our founders Devin Daly and Michael Quigley had the opportunity to speak at The Tech Garden in downtown Syracuse. They shared their insights on growing and scaling a startup in Central New York, which is also the topic of Upstate Founders Playbook Vol 1, compiled by Jennifer Sertl & Nasir Ali. Read the excerpts below for insights into how it all began, the decision to stay a Syracuse-based company and the impact it has had on the business and organization.
Sertl: How did SpinCar begin?
Daly: For the first year and a half we were not in the automotive business whatsoever. We started experimenting in the auto space and then straddled both the fashion and auto industries for about six months. It was October 2014 when we decided to purely focus on auto. We hired Bruce O’Brien as our VP of Sales, signed up a couple of big domestic distributors and we were off to the races at that point.
Sertl: Were you both together at the beginning?
Quigley: Yes, that’s right. The vision was simple, our thesis was that VR, or 360 imaging, would revolutionize ecommerce. Seven years ago, that sounded like a pretty wild idea; today it’s increasingly obvious that will be the case. I think in essence though, we really just set out to do one thing: we wanted to build a product that people loved, and I think we thought the rest would take care of itself.
Sertl: What was the reason for you to continue to build in Syracuse?
Quigley: We are both from Central New York. It is where our families and core networks are. But beyond that, CNY has a lot of fabulous resources: it is so easy to tap into the local universities for growth and hiring, and in our experience in talking with entrepreneurs from larger technology markets, the willingness of the local business community and community leaders to reach out and help is actually much more heightened in nascent technology communities like CNY. We have seen many benefits from being among the first digital technology companies in CNY.
Sertl: Are you finding the right skill sets in the region?
Daly: For certain functions, definitely. We are trying to hire Software as a Service (SaaS) executives, that is a little bit of a challenge. We are bringing people in that commute and are in some cases relocating. I think that is good for the region. We are bringing world-class executives here that have worked at blue chip SaaS companies. Our local staff are learning a lot from these types of people.
Sertl: Can you share percentages of how many people were really from the region versus imported to the region?
Daly: Overall, 90% of our employees are from the region. VP level or higher, 50% are from out of the region.
Sertl: What are the biggest constraints to your growth?
Daly: Talent and capital. Talent is one we have already talked about. The way we’re moving beyond that is getting creative with commuting people in, bringing people here and showing them the benefits of upstate New York and then relocating them up here. We are capital efficient which is a benefit of being in Upstate NY. Our lower operating costs and the area’s low cost of living allow us to grow in a profitable manner.
Sertl: What does “pay it forward” mean to you?
Daly: Mike and I are both from Syracuse. We made a conscious decision to build a business here. You know, we could be somewhere warm, but we really believe in this area and providing advice to the next generation of entrepreneurs. We want to be contributing towards turning this area into a real tech economy, a software economy. We will be investing in some of the young founders of the area too.