[00:00] Podcast begins - How Houston Startup Liongard Scaled & Secured $30M in Funding
[02:38] Leaving behind the corporate world for IT entrepreneurship
[06:01] Founding Liongard & early lessons on pivoting
[12:36] Connecting with customers & prospects for product feedback
[16:04] Hiring a CEO as a founder & tapping into the “invisible army” of advisors
[22:50] Getting involved in Station Houston & fundraising in a pandemic
[28:41] Moving into the Ion & giving back to aspiring entrepreneurs
What inspired you to take the red pill and leave your corporate position?
Leaving a corporate position for the startup world can always feel uncertain, but Joe felt a calling to be a part of something bigger and to make a difference with his computer science skills. Despite leaving his position at Exxon to enter the world of independent consulting and entrepreneurship, Joe still credits his experience at the company for helping him understand technology at the largest scale. Joe feels that he gained relevant experience and impactful skills that assisted him in finding success at Liongard with his co-founder, Vincent.
"This internet thing is going to be big, and I felt like I was not in the middle of it. I decided to jump in and it was an awesome decision, but I learned a lot at Exxon. I got to see how the largest technology environments run and some of that is still relevant to what I'm doing now.”
How did you decide to start polling your Liongard customers?
Early on, Liongard experienced a crisis of customers not buying what they were selling. Fellow founders, advisors, and even prospective investors were all telling Joe and Vincent to seek out their potential customers, listen to their needs, and hone in on their services. Finally, Joe understood that something had to give. With the help of a researcher, Liongard was able to ask the tough questions and discover their messaging wasn’t effective for what they were selling.
“We're running through my savings account down to zero and my wife's getting scared. You develop this sense of creativity and the proverbial pivot starts to happen. It's not as grand as some people think. It's just looking at what the market needs and it's listening.”
Why did you hire a CEO as a founder? What was that experience like?
Trying to be the CEO of Liongard was extremely tough for Joe, especially as they attempted numerous fundraising rounds and raised their Series B during the pandemic. Running a startup and raising money takes its toll, and Joe wanted to get back to his initial focus on Liongard’s product, not just the company vision. With the help of his Board and with their “invisible army” of advisors and mentors, Liongard hired a new CEO and Joe took on the role of CTO instead.
“Our board, our advisors, a lot of them were also seeing what I was contemplating. I think about it as a joint decision. This is awesome for the focus for the company. I'm focusing on the product vision, she's focusing on the company's vision and driving growth in new ways.”
What inspired you to connect with Station Houston and how did that impact Liongard?
Initially, Joe resisted the idea of Liongard having their own office. It wasn’t until Joe met with the amazing minds at Station Houston that he discovered the mentorship, collaboration, and networking opportunity of a shared space was something both he and Liongard desperately needed. Now, Joe credits Station Houston and the rise of places like the Ion as a key element of his success as a Houston founder and Liongard’s continued growth.
“I really started to understand and appreciate the concept of network effects and why it's so critical to driving success and why it makes sense to create those network connections. The timing was great; we were in the right place to get the support of the community.”