Recently, we sat down with Billy Grandy, head of the Softeq Venture Studio. A serial entrepreneur of 17 years, Billy participated in some of the top accelerator programs globally. In this interview, Billy talks about overcoming entrepreneurial setbacks and the exact way Softeq Venture Studio is going to help startups thrive. He also goes into what sets the studio apart from similar accelerators, and what it all has to do with Houston, among other things.
A: I started my career 17 years ago in innovation, and the biggest change I’ve seen in the last 10 years is how things have gotten technically more complex. So as you start a company, you might be lucky enough to have a CTO, and they might be good at front end, but you need an embedded engineer or you need a back-end engineer. So the challenging part is that it has gotten more complex.
A: Being an entrepreneur, life is about setbacks, right? It’s about how you get from that low point to the next low point to the next low point and keep going. I’ve had many successes and just as many failures. I think the key is having a good support system around you, so whether that’s a wife or a spouse or a partner or family or a best friend—you need that support system. We’ve had parts of the company just crumble overnight with things that are outside of our control. There are always going to be low points. It’s about getting from low point to low point and knowing that you can get through it.
A: The core of what makes us different and unique from all those out there (as someone that’s been through a lot of accelerators) is that we add a ton of value. And I suggest that every entrepreneur go find the accelerator that’s right for them and participate in it. What makes ours different is that it involves the core of Softeq. It’s that core technical competency, that Softeq has, that we can then use to advance the companies further.
A: The Venture Studio is for everyone. We’re an inclusive group, we like to take all forms of entrepreneurs. Where we fit is…
So, anyone that has an idea, and who is a good entrepreneur, that’s looking to solve the technical problem, and you doesn’t have that core skill set in their group—that’s who we’re looking for, we don’t really care about the industry.
A: Personally, I like to solve big challenging problems that have a big impact. So, it could be in the healthcare space, in the energy space, in the connectivity space… All those verticals have huge amounts of potential for innovation. And they’re generally controlled by big conglomerate companies that need innovation. And one of the things that make the Softeq Venture Studio unique is that we not only help the startups scale their product, but we also work with a lot of these large enterprise companies. So there’s a partnership model that happens between the startups that come into the Venture Studio and our current customer base, which are those larger enterprise customers.
A: Houston’s a great city. The things you’d expect me to say: it’s the 3rd-4th largest city (that’s up for debate). It has the largest Medical Center in the world, and it’s the energy capital of the world. But that’s not what really matters. The hidden gem of Houston is its diversity. Houston is the most culturally diverse city in the country. Houston will become an Innovation Hub, and it’s going to be based around the people because the people are what matter. So—what drives innovation? It’s very rarely the idea, it’s almost always the people that were involved. And that diversity is what will drive Houston to be an Innovation Hub.
A: Five years is a long time in the world of Softeq, and a lot of innovative things can happen in five years. What we are looking to do is to have hundreds of companies go through the Venture Studio. We’re looking to have it potentially in multiple cities, maybe in multiple countries. But at the core of it, we want to help entrepreneurs succeed and advance innovation forward.
A: My career has been a 17-year straight line. There have been no ups and downs (that’s actually a joke). What’s prepared me for this career and specifically for this moment is the network and the connections that I’ve made, and having the ability to go to that network and connect the companies that are coming into the Venture Studio with those mentors and those advisors that can help them move their business forward.
A: I’ve had a lot of strange detours. Definitely, the weirdest one is I had a sales job where I went on a sales call, and I showed up, and it was a nudist colony. That definitely wins the wildest, weirdest detour. It was quite shocking when I got there too and I realized what was happening.
A: My favorite thing to do is to be on the water. I grew up on the water, I love to wakeboard and water-ski, and fish, and just hanging out at the sandbar. So if I’m ever not answering my phone or my email I’m probably on the boat.
Want to take your digital product to the next level? The Softeq Venture Studio is designed to support startups with technology guidance, development resources, and much-needed cash. We’re accepting applications for the next cohort that will run from January through March 2022. The deadline to apply is December 11, 2021. Learn more at www.softeq.com/venture-studio.