“We keep hearing from people that we ask really good questions,” said Brett Burkhart, of Slash/web Studios. “We don’t start the conversation with technology; we start with the people that will be utilizing it. We want to learn about the users and the business before we try to craft a solution,” explains this architect turned CEO/Developer who will be the guest of Executive Director Mike Colwell at the October session of the Business Innovation Zone’s Start-Up Stories.
Slash/web is an open source development studio doing development for websites, software and mobile applications across a wide range of clients and client industries based in a converted skateboard shop and tattoo parlor in uptown Ankeny, Iowa.
Burkhart’s path to becoming a tech CEO is both circuitous and in his own words, illogical, but both adjectives mask a certain thread that underlies all the stops along the way. While attending Iowa State University in pursuit of an architectural degree, Burkhart found the time to indulge in his many hobbies and interests including; videography, web design, animation, and photography. Knowing he was spread too thin, but unable to choose, Burkhart was fortunate enough to find employment in architecture firms wanting to utilize his side interests.
Ultimately he was invited to engage his emerging entrepreneurial spirit by joining an emerging firm in Ankeny. They began to design houses and build a web design business as a sideline to the primary firm’s focus. In time, the sideline demanded all of their time and was spun off as Slash/web. In 2011, in an effort to provide a complete portfolio of services in the tech realm to their growing list of clients, they acquired a digital and social media firm and continued their advance into both B2B and B2C markets.
“What I came to realize after the fact,” he reports, “is that there are so many parallels between development and architecture.” Realizing that each new project in both fields begins with a blank sheet of paper, no preconceptions and a series of questions about the habits and needs of the end users helped him understand the correlation. “I realized that in both cases, I was asking essentially the same questions,” he observes.
Taking questions first from Colwell and then the audience, Burkhart has much to share. In particular he anticipates the story of ThermoGrid to be of interest. Unlike previous endeavors, this was a product built for a vertical market rather than a specific customer, an endeavor with unique and inherent risks.
Stepping outside their comfort zone and committing 14 months of development to a product without an assured return, Slash/web joined with a heating and cooling consultant to develop what they now call the HVAC Profitability Program.
This unique application lets heating and cooling companies maintain accuracy in pricing, ordering and servicing HVAC systems, and allows them to focus more on people skills as they scale their sales force knowing that the application can supply historical industry knowledge to the sales process. Now in use around the country and finding a warm welcome in an industry whose sales force is aging out and taking with it too much knowledge, Burkhart is anxious to share the experience.
“How we came to the decision to build this, and the things that happened along the way should be informative and make for a great discussion,” shared this artful questioner who is set to be questioned.
Burkhart hopes that fellow entrepreneurs, as well as those who are juggling multiple interests as he has always done, will join him and Colwell for a lively lunch conversation on these topics and more.
$15 admission fee (includes lunch)
11: 30 a.m.
October 15th, 2014
Ruan II, 601 Locust
Conference Room 101
Purchase your tickets/make reservations -http://www.desmoinesmetro.com/en/calendar/october_startup_stories_event/
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Contact the BIZ for details.
The BIZ’s mission is to connect entrepreneurial needs with qualified community and state resources and to provide guided professional and business direction. The BIZ helps entrepreneurs maximize their successes by helping them navigate resources, strengthen knowledge, improve skills, form strategic alliances and secure proper capitalization.