Josh Owen never looked at himself as an entrepreneur. He formed his first company Tryon Solutions to do some consulting work, and before he knew it, the company had grown to the point where it had about 100 employees. For Josh, it was time to try another idea, which required funding. Even after a $2.5M raise to start his new company Cycle Labs, he still doesn’t think of himself as an entrepreneur – he’s simply someone who likes to solve problems.
Josh Owen: For me, it’s never been about like financial success or anything like that. It’s like, like solving these problems and I need people to help me do it. When they do that though, they’re trusting in me a lot. Right, right. They’re trusting in me in this vision, they’re trusting in me that we’re making the right decisions for the organization. And so I feel like that is my responsibility to everybody who’s ever been a part of one of my organizations. yeah. You’ve trusted the vision that I have. You’ve trusted me to make the decision. So I am gonna do everything I can to take care of you and your family. That’s sort of the tradeoff.
Trevor Schmidt: Today’s guest is Josh Owen, co-founder and CEO of Cycle Labs, a provider of a continuous test automation platform, in software that tests other software. With any business, whether it’s a startup or a Fortune 500 company, the day to day processes often get done on software built by other vendors. Some of it is new, while other systems have been in place for years. These systems have to be tested to ensure that mission critical functions perform as expected. Cycle Labs provides an automated way to make sure those systems are working.
You may be thinking, as I did, how does something like this scale – what happens when a piece of software is just so old or something they’ve never seen before
Every client thinks that they’re unique. You know, at the end of the day, they’re putting stuff in boxes and shipping it. Sure. So there’s, there’s a lot of commonality. Probably the challenges are really with the legacy systems, right, when you find somebody who hasn’t changed in 30 years, , there’s probably something there that maybe we haven’t found before. Generally speaking, we’re be transparent about that. And, we’ll say. We’ll give it a shot and see if we can make it successful. There’s definitely been things where we weren’t sure if we were gonna get there or not, but so far we’ve been able to move ahead.
Trevor: Josh attributes that to a great engineering team. How this engineering team came together is part of Cycle Labs’ story, but Josh’s journey to this point was not a foregone conclusion. Some of our guests describe wanting to start businesses from young age and seem to be born entrepreneurs, but others, like Josh never really thought this would be their path.
You know, I, I’ve never really looked at myself as an entrepreneur. I still don’t necessarily in the traditional sense. I think people think of that as like, you know, these people who are out there launching businesses to grow businesses and provide value to the shareholders and things like that. But it’s like, I just like solving problems, you know, it just so happens that the ones that I found myself in the position to solve require, you know, investment and it requires building something that’s complex.
And so, it involved it, bringing people around me to, to help solve that problem. And so, you know, the quick story is, you know, I was in NC state undergrad, computer science, and did okay at that, you know, thankfully I found my path into like management and leadership and I’m much more equipped to do that than I am writing software these days, you know, saying just enough to be dangerous, you know, , in that terms of skill set, but I got a, a job after college at a company that was called Red Prairie.
So just literally NC State engineering career fair, talked to ’em, you know, got a job offered and wanted something local here to Raleigh, so that fit the bill. That is, you know, where I learned about supply chain management and warehouse management and things like that. I, I was lucky enough to have a boss who, you know, had 20 plus years of experience doing this and took me under his wing.
And I learned everything that I know about supply chain management and deploying these big systems from, from this guy, his name is Jeff and, but the problem is with that space is when you think about supply chain systems, empowering these big distribution centers, right? So a warehouse management system is the piece of software that sort of orchestrates the inner workings of a distribution center or a warehouse.
And it can be everything from like label printers to, material handling equipment or conveyors, robotics to orchestrating, you know, human movement throughout the warehouse, things like that. So the complex system, I, I guess, is the point, and these, these warehouses will often you know, 365 days a year, seven days a week and oftentimes 24/7.
So when you’re doing these multi months, sometimes multi-year projects and you’re trying to install these complicated systems, there really isn’t a culture of we’ll pick it up tomorrow when there’s a problem, right?. So if the conveyors aren’t running and you can’t ship and tractor trailers are backing down the interstate and so forth and so on, you just kind of stay there until the, the problems have been solved.
Right. So I found myself in a world where, you know, you’re traveling around the globe to these different warehouses, which is a fun experience, but they’re never really in like the best cities or at least the best parts of the city, you know? So you’re like you’re flying into a fun city and then you’re driving an hour out to where the cheap real estate is.
Yeah. And then, you know, you’re working 60, 70, 80, 90-hour weeks. I think my record was like 123 hours.
Between a Saturday and a Saturday. So, right. You know, after like three years of doing this, I was just kind of like, I’m gonna die young if I, if I don’t find a different profession so I just quit. You know, I got a friend of mine who worked there with me.
We decided to do it at the same time. And so we, we left that company, and young enough where we felt like we could figure something else out, you know, no, no game plan. And, my biggest customer at the time it was a customer, AT&T. I was a project leader for their projects. And they called me literally the same night that we quit.
And they were just kinda like, hey, I heard you left. Would you keep doing this for us? So, you know, my friend and I, we didn’t have any plans. We were like, oh, we need to pay the bills. So we’ll keep doing this. We’ll just do it as independent contractors for a while. And we are basically doing 2000 hours a year each, you know, consulting full-time and doing these the same thing we did at Red Prairie, but doing it independently.
Trevor: Okay. Well, I was gonna say, it sounds like you’re still doing the same thing you didn’t wanna do anymore though.
Josh: Yeah, so that, that, that’s where that’s where Cycle Labs will eventually come into play, right. Okay. So when, when we started doing this right, we got busy and we needed some help. We had enough work that we needed someone to come help us.
And so, naturally I suppose the place that you go is your former employer, right. So we reached out to some folks there and said, Hey, the, the water’s fine. There’s a lot of work out here. Come join the team. And, and we got our first employee. His name was Brian. The problem though, is that Brian brought some work with him, right?
So there’s sort of this culture of, you know, relationships and things like that. So when he joined, we had hired him to do this work for our clients. but he brought a client with him. So then we needed to find somebody to do that. And then we sort of found ourselves in this snowball effect type environment where we were just kind of growing just naturally by, by relationships that came with the employees that we were hiring.
And that’s probably, I mean, that’s primarily how we grew to those first couple years. So I guess the story about entrepreneurship was this happy accident, maybe. I don’t know. Wasn’t part of my game plan.
Trevor: So, I mean, that’s, that’s part of the question, you know, I always imagine you as your younger self kind of, if, if he saw you now kind, what, what would his thoughts process be?
Josh: I’m fairly certain, the younger version of me would think the current version of me is rather lame, I don’t know that I ever had a game plan for what I wanted to do. Pretty sure it wasn’t, this, it wasn’t gonna be this. I think I was like, you know, imagining myself, you know, back when I thought I was good at writing software, doing that part of the day and spending time on the beach or something like that, but like, Here I am in like the, sort of the definition of suburbia with, you know, a wife and two kids and a dog up in North Raleigh.
Probably worse things. And thankfully, you know, I’ve matured, I think, and I’m much happier that I’ve resulted in who I am now versus who I probably wanted myself to be. Although I do think that I would’ve been excited about the fact that I’d started a couple companies.
Trevor: Yeah, yeah. That, that that’s awesome. So kind of, as you were developing this process, snowballing into where you’re at as an entrepreneur. I mean, did you have an end goal in mind or were you just kind of responding to the issues as they came up?
Josh: Yeah. So in the beginning we definitely did not, right. It was, we, we were in that circumstance of, well, we have some work and we’re gonna hire some people to do that work. And there was sort of a reckoning at some points. And I don’t remember exactly what year it was. I think we were probably around 16 employees or so.
You know, at this time and when it was my friend and I, who had founded the company and then, you know, I sort of mentioned this guy, Jeff, who I used to work for. So sort of one of the pivotal moments in that company’s growth was my co-founder and I, we kind of said like, hey, it’d be great if we could go get Jeff to join the team.
Right. Because we were young and we were hungry and we were decently good at what we did. But no one knew who we were. We didn’t have a lot of legitimacy. So I was having lunches regularly with my former boss and saying, you know, come join the team, what would it take so forth? And so on. And I think a year and a half or maybe two years or so into it, he joined. When he joined that really brought some legitimacy to it. And so, that sort of sped up some of that growth that was already naturally happening. And one day I, I think we were around 16 employees or so I.
We kind of sat down, you know, the three of us who were owners of the company, cuz when Jeff joined, he bought in, and we had this conversation of like, well, you know, it seems as though we could just keep doing this we could just keep growing the company. Do we want to just kind of play it out here and you know, have a nice living and just keep doing what we’re doing.
Do we really wanna like reinvest everything that we’re, you know, doing and, and grow this thing as, because we can make it. And so that was the day that we said, okay, we’re gonna grow. That’s what we decided we wanna do. And it was shortly thereafter. I think that we decided we should actually go hire a CEO.
Trevor: And who was the first CEO then?
Josh: Yeah. So the first person who actually held the title CEO was a guy named Mark, a great friend of mine. I, I learned an inordinate amount about how I lead from Mark. Right? So Mark was a leader at Red Prairie, the company that we had formally all worked for. And so there was, A time in that company’s history where the private equity firm that owned them, merged them with another organization.
That was an organization called JDA. And so when those two organizations merged, there was sort of this mass Exodus of talent engineering, talent and leadership. And so we were lucky enough to be in a place where we could provide a nice landing ground for some of those folks. And so we had reached out to Mark and said, hey, you know, we’ve, we’ve got a pretty good start.
But, you know, we don’t know what we’re doing. , you know, could you come and, and, and lead the team. And so I think that’s probably one of the things that I feel like we really did right during that period of time, because, you know, the three of us were very much more suited, still just being in the business at the time. Running the business, running the projects and so forth and so on. And so, yeah. Mark came and joined and really helped us think about how to scale.
Trevor: Well, I’m glad you commented on that. Cuz as I listened to your story, I hear a couple times, you know, realizing what your skill sets are, but realizing that it may not be what you need to kind of grow the business.
I mean, so how did you think about that at that time? And does that continue to influence kind of how you manage now, knowing what you’re good at and that kind of filling in skillset around you?
Josh: No, it’s, it’s a big part of how I manage and lead today and I think it probably a pretty big part of the culture at Cycle Labs. You, right? So like one of the things that I always joke about is that I’m not very good at anything. Everything. I I’ve done every job. But I can only do it well enough to keep it alive until we can bring somebody else in who’s actually good at doing it, you know? Yep. So like, like with the software engineering aspects of things in the past, I’m just good enough to be dangerous at it.
You know? So that’s, that was a big part of it. I think when we talked about it, we were like, hey, we want to grow it. We’re very good at these aspects of the business. We need somebody to help us grow. And so let’s go find someone who’s actually got some experience doing that, and that I think a very good decision at the time.
Trevor: Sure. And how do you get from there to, to Cycle Labs?
Josh: Yeah. So, as I said, right, or actually, I think you commented earlier that we were kind of ended up in a, in a situation. We were just doing the same thing that we had basically left the former, you know, job to go and avoid doing. , I think we were doing it better. Like, we, we knew that when we were controlling the timeline, when we were controlling the budgets and the approach of the project that we, we had, what we felt was a better way of doing the same thing. So we weren’t gonna find ourselves in the exact same situation.
That being said, there was still complexity. There was still, you know, budgets and things like that. And we were still doing a lot of hours. And so, I’m sure like every consulting firm, cuz that’s basically what we were, that’s ever existed has probably said to each other at some point, hey, it’d be cool if we built some of our own software.
Right, then then we can control our own destiny, you know, then we can be in charge and we’re not attached to somebody else’s horse, you know, that sort of thing., and so we, we sat down with mark one day and we just kind of had this Conversation. You were like, hey, we think, you know, it’d be good to do something like this and he was like, yeah, if, if you wanna do it, I can help do it. Let’s get it started.
Sort of the next step from that was we put some ideas on, on the board, right? Just kinda said here’s some problem in this space that we think we could solve and we could build some software to do it because we had a lot of engineers. We were just doing it in a consultative manner for our clients versus focusing on internal build out of solutions, you know?
So we got a handful of our clients together, down in Memphis. Tennessee, that’s, there’s a FedEx hub there. So there’s a lot of distribution centers around there. Right? So we basically rented a conference room at a hotel and we said, hey, you know, we, we wanna solve some problems in this space. Would you use it? What would you pay for it? And we came away with a couple ideas to work on, very quickly realized how difficult and expensive it is to build enterprise software. Cuz that’s what you’re doing. Even if we didn’t know it at the time. And, had to, had to choose one thing.
And thankfully the one thing that we chose really got some traction. And that, that, that concept eventually became Cycle, which we eventually spun-out last year as, as Cycle Labs. So tell
Trevor: me a little bit about that, that process. You said you had two ideas. How did you end up selecting the one that you move forward with?
Josh: Gut feel, really. It was like, I would love to say that we had time to do some market analysis and so forth and so on, but we just kind of looked at it and said, you know, I think this thing is gonna be harder to duplicate. There’s probably gonna be less people who think this is a real problem. We feel like there’s gonna be less competition here. And we just chose something that we felt like we could get a head start.
Trevor: And do you have that other idea still on the shelf? Is that coming out sometime?
Josh:, that, that one is not coming out. Yeah, thankfully, you know, in addition to the fact that the one we, we chose got traction that we did see other organizations kind of duplicate that other idea. Oh, good. So it’s, it’s being done by someone
Trevor: sounds like the, the gut instinct was the right way to go.
Josh: Yeah. This time. Yeah, for sure.
Trevor: so talk a little bit then about what it’s like to, to spin out a brand-new company kind of out of this existing company. Was it a challenge. I mean, I imagine you still have to do your day job as you’re kind of building that enterprise software.
Josh: So yeah, yeah, that, that was, you know, that was January, 2021 to July, 2021 was that time period. We were really, you know, knows the grindstone, orchestrating the spinout . And it was a period of time where I, I don’t know that I could muster up that amount of energy again. Honestly, like, I was, you know, I have two daughters, you know, and so during that period of time for like my personal schedule, I would get up at 4:30 or 5 and work for a couple hours before they get up. , I’d get them up at seven, get them ready for school of the day, whatever, have breakfast with the family. Sit back down around 8:30 or so do my full day. You. Have dinner with the family, get the girls in bed and then sit back down and work for another two or three hours.
And I did that every single day, you know, for weeks and weeks and months and months on end. So that was incredibly difficult cuz you were building everything, you know, I mean literally everything from the ground up like our internal systems, our methodologies, our hiring practices, benefits programs, you know, everything. It wasn’t like, we were like, wow, we just had to figure this out for one or two people. We launched with 25 people. You know, and there were families depending on us having done this. So it, it needed to have a strong foundation on day one.
Trevor: Yeah. Well talk a little bit about that. I mean, cuz you talk about supporting and, and the, kind of the stress of, of having other people that are dependent on this being successful. Can you just talk a little bit about that cuz I mean, I think, and sometimes that’s part of the entrepreneurship journey that may give it a little short shrift because people don’t talk about the fact you’ve got people depending on you, kind of for your business.
Josh: Yeah. I think that is probably, you know, the one thing that truly motivates me aside from just finding an interesting problem to solve. It’s like, for me, it’s never been about like financial success or anything like that. It’s like, like solving these problems and I need people to help me do it. When they do that though, they’re trusting in me a lot.
Right, right. They’re trusting in me in this vision, they’re trusting in me that we’re making the right decisions for the organization. And so I feel like that is my responsibility to everybody who’s ever been a part of one of my organizations. yeah. You’ve trusted the vision that I have. You’ve trusted me to make the decision. So I am gonna do everything I can to take care of you and your family. That’s sort of the tradeoff.
So, you know, when we think about raising money, when we think about, who we partner with and what we service and product roadmap, I always think, man, you know, there are families dependent upon these choices, right? Yeah. So it’s a big part about how, how I think about things.
Trevor: And does that motivate you or is that a big stress or both or?
Josh: No, I don’t think it stresses me out. I think it’s, it’s definitely just a motivation, right? Because at the end of the day, you gotta have to, you have to approach things with a clear head and, and you can’t like ring your hands over the decisions.
Right. So like anything, even when you’re like, you know, placing bets in the stock market, all you can do is kinda look at the parameters that, you know, at the time, make the best choice that you can. And then of course correct if things change. And so that’s just kind of how we operate.
Trevor: So in that, that, that period that you’re talking about, that was just such an intense period of time. Any mistakes that stand out to you that, that were made that you would, if you could go back and kind of redo or.
Josh: The most difficult part of it, and I’m not sure there’s anything that we could change about it is just that there’s, you know, there’s it’s high emotions, right? so, we’re somewhere between 85 and a hundred people at that former organization when we were actually splitting out, you know, and we were bringing 25 folks with us.
And so it was hard. You think about the people in the families, because there were probably some people who kind of wish they could have come with the software side. And for all, I know maybe there were software people who wish they stayed with the consulting side, you know, I don’t think that’s the case, but it’s possible.
Right. And so, you know, having to, to, to divide that, you know, basically look at the humans involved and make a decision about, for them, about where they’re gonna work. You know, of course we, one of the decisions that we made early on was we’re gonna make this choice, and if someone decides that they would rather have stayed at the other place or whatever, we will support that.
Okay. So we wanted to make sure we were taking care of everybody, but it was still tough decisions. And then, you know, equally as tough was, you know, the, the clients, right? Like how do we decide which business they’re going with? How do you divide up those revenue streams, things like that. All of that was very difficult.
and it, it creates an environment where there’s high emotion. But you know, we, we got through it.
Trevor: Yeah. Well, so I understand July 1st was the, the birthday, Cycle Labs.
Josh: Yeah, that’s right. July 1st was our birthday.
Trevor: I a few weeks ago. So happy birthday. Thank you still with that time. So, and I understand in that one-year period, that cycle labs has had something like 300% revenue growth. 44% employee growth.
Josh: Yeah, it’s been busy.
Trevor: Talk, talk through that a little bit. How do you manage? Cause that seems just like meteoric growth. So, I mean,
Josh: yeah, it’s, it’s been an exciting 12 months, so I’ll phrase it that way. You know, definitely a lot of work, not nearly as much work as it wasn’t that first six months. Cuz as you said, we were kind of, you know, building the plane as we were going down the runway there and still having to work during the day and do this stuff at night. But over the past 12 months, what I’ve realized. And I think this is a lot of learnings that I have from the first company that I started.
we wanted to focus on high quality for ourselves, for our clients and things like that. But the way we went about it probably is very different than how I go about it now. back then, we felt like we were the gatekeepers, right. We know what we’re doing. So we’re gonna maintain a certain high level of quality by making sure things run through us.
when I was launching Cycle Labs, what I, what I realized was that’s not possible. In, in, in this startup world, in the software world, I, I had no ability to oversee everything, right. So I’m a big fan of, I think it’s actually from Reed Hastings in his Netflix sort of culture document. He, he talks about context over control
And so the idea there is that, you know, it’s, it’s our jobs as leaders to set a defined vision mission, quantitatively define what we view as success, and it’s my, my job as a CEO to get people rallying around that, right. But then to give them control over how the company gets there.
So we, we use what’s called the OKR framework, this idea of Objectives and Key Results. O. Oh, the, the O part of that, the objective is a qualitative measurement of success. It’s kind of like, we’re gonna have this big aspirational goal. And I think this started back in the Google days.
So, you know, Sergio and those guys were doing into Google and it’s kind of become a popular thing in the tech scene and things like that. But. it fits into our culture nicely because, as I’ve kind of talked about already, like, I don’t feel like I’m the best at anything in our organization.
but we do have talented people who are very good at those things. And so if I can kind of point us in the direction that we need to go and give them the tools to get there, that I trust them to make the right decisions. So we, we operate with a high level of autonomy, because I just don’t have the capacity in nor the desire to try to pass every single decision through me.
Trevor: Right, yeah. So, I mean, and, and speak to that a little bit, because I think as you grow the team, maintaining culture becomes a little bit more difficult and more challenging. Has, has that you been your experience or has it been.
Josh: It, it can be and even more so these days, because psycho labs doesn’t have an office, right. We are 100% remote. So there’s a couple challenges there, when you think about sort of building and maintaining a specific type of culture. And so I think what, what you have to do and what we do is we just, we, we, we work on it proactively.
Cultures is one of those things where it’s going to happen one way or the other. And you can either control it and make it something, or it’s gonna become what it is going to become naturally.
Right. You’re gonna have a culture, no matter what, right. Is it culture you want?
That’s right. It’s going to exist. And so we go out of our way to focus on building the culture that we want. we, we, we, every one of us carry around something that’s called a challenge coin, right? Popular in the military or the armed forces and things like that. But one of our employees, a veteran made these challenge points for us very early on when we launched to have our core values on them and we carry them around with us and things like that.
And so there’s just like little things like that, that we do. So if you are somewhere where you’re meeting up in person, then if you bring out your challenge coin and the other person doesn’t have theirs and they’re buying the meal, you that kind of thing. So little things like that.
Trevor: It’s funny you mentioned that, cause I noticed you do it in the hallway. oh, did you? Yeah, I think Paul had walked up to you and presented a coin. I might have to ask about that, but yeah.
Josh: That’s right, yeah. He didn’t get me today, but sometimes rarely
Trevor: I can verify the coin was presented.
Josh: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. So little things like that, but what I love about that example is I didn’t come up with it. One of our employees did it because he, he was excited about the culture that we were building. I was a guy named Matt. He’s fantastic. But this was his idea, you know, it’s is another example of the autonomy. Even the, the culture comes, you know, as exudes from our employees. And so we also, especially as we’re remote, we get together every Tuesday.
Right. Okay. Just for 30 minutes on a, on a, on a call, like we use Google meet and we just go over like exciting things that have happened to the company., we go over challenging things that we’re facing. We introduce new team members and things like that. Although with this growth, we, what we’ve been doing is kind of going around and letting everybody answer like, I get to know you question. But we can’t really do that anymore. These calls are becoming too long, so. Think of something to replace that.
But it’s just, the secret is just be proactive about it. Make sure that you’re working on it and then hire people who are aligned with that culture. . And as long as we’re hiring people who are aligned with that culture and they’re hiring people who are aligned to that culture, it will continue to exist.
Trevor: And you touched on this some, but, but some of the challenges with working remotely, do you, do you see that as long-term goal for the company?
Do you see yourself getting into an office space at some point? Or how are you gonna navigate that, that challenge?
Josh: Yeah. I mean, I, I think, I think the key today is, is to have the option. Yeah, right. I mean, we, we, we can’t build a culture that says everybody come into the office because we’re spread across eight states.
Right. And we’re not gonna get eight offices. So we have to make sure that the people who are remote feel like they’re a part of the culture and our processes have to be built that in mind. That being said, the folks who are in Raleigh, we would love to be able to get people together from time to time.
I don’t see a world where we say it’s a requirement though. You know, I think we’d love to have a space that we call our own that we say, when it makes sense, if you need it, it’s there, but it’s not a requirement
Trevor: that that’s helpful. I mean, I think it is gonna be a challenge and things that people will figure out these next few years, cuz it’s been a crazy time these last couple years.
So I wanted to back up a little bit, you know, you talked a little bit about as attracting your existing customers to Cycle Labs, but I mean, how do you go about kind of finding it and convincing these clients that you’re working with, that we have a solution and it’s gonna be valuable for you. How do you go out and attract those clients?
Josh: Yeah, well, I mean, hopefully great marketing is a big help of that. You know, Paul and the team who, who line this conversation up, I think you certainly help us do that, but I mean in the supply chain space and the enterprise software space, a lot of it is, is relationships, right?
So doing good work for your clients and actually providing value and actually solving problems. And then just as human nature to tell and share that story with others. Right? So up to now, a lot of it has been that, right. , we, we do really good work for our clients. We solve meaningful problems for our clients, and then they will share that.
And I think sometimes it, it needs to be more than just financial problems. Right. Like for us, we have a vision, we have a mission they’re defined and we know what they mean and they guide. But even more so importantly, we focus on a common purpose, right? This, this idea of giving our clients their time back about creating a world where introducing change in their systems and things like that is a freedom. They have not something to avoid, but something to strive for.
And so that is just a, a part of what we do. And so when, when you can sort of make an emotional appeal to some, someone like when you make their life better, right, they are going to be more likely to share that story with others.
Trevor: Yeah. And, and so I guess, is that, is that the continued goal, just kinda word of mouth and kinda sharing the success of these past clients, or is there other opportunities that you see out there for continuing to grow.
Josh: No, no, definitely. Certainly that will always be a part of how we grow. That will always be an aspect of what we do. But yeah, we, we would love to continue to grow the marketing engine to get our name out there and to share that story on a broader spectrum and start bringing opportunities in that way as well.
Trevor: Now I understand you recently raised two and a half million dollars from Jurassic capital as well. Congratulations. How was that experience for you? How was the fundraising experience? Taking on investment. How’s that been?
Josh: Yeah, it was, it was fun. I mean, certainly challenging in its own right, right? So we launched, as you said, July 1st, 2021.
Right. So it was kinda like, oh, we did it, we got over the finish line and then it was kinda like, now you start the next race, right. Go, go and try to raise some capital. And so that was basically my primary job after getting everything launched was starting that process. Thankfully knowing that we were going to launch at some point, I had begun that process a long time before that.
And at that time, I didn’t know what Cycle Labs was going to be. I didn’t know what was gonna be called. I didn’t know exactly what we were gonna do, but I had a general concept of how the company was gonna function. And so what I basically began, it was just building relationships.
Right. I actually became a member of the CED you know, , over in Durham and, and Jay Bigelow and Hunter, and those guys were super helpful in saying, you know, here are the things that you need to think about here are the things that you, you know, investors are gonna wanna hear from you. And what I was able to do probably two years prior to actually launching the company was start to establish these relationships.
Right. Just get to know people. Because at the end of the day, that’s what I wanted. I was like, we have this strong culture. I want to maintain this culture, and I want our investors to be aligned to that culture. And, and, and thankfully we were able to find investors in Jurassic capital that, that, you know, completely aligned to the way that we work.
Trevor: Well. I mean, I think it’s such an important lesson cuz you talk about having those conversations way early on. And, and sometimes I feel like especially young entrepreneurs don’t really realize that that conversation needs to start way before you’re actually asking for that, that check. And so, you know, I think that’s great. They kind of got out there. When you didn’t started building those relationships.
Josh: Yeah. It was super helpful because, you know, whether or not Kevin Mosley, who’s the general partner of Jurassic realizes it or not, you know, he, he helped shape what it was. So then when the question came up of, is this something that you’re willing to invest in?
It was basically something that he helped design, right, because he was helping us. He was helping us make choices. And he was saying, this is what I would find interesting. And so as we made those choices, it was becoming more and more aligned to what they would view as, you know, an ideal portfolio company.
And so building those relationships and, and Kevin’s just a fantastic guy, a good friend just made that whole process that much easier.
Trevor: So, do you, do you feel like kind of having that investment in place changes the way you approach the company or, I mean, does it add additional pressures to you kind of as the CEO? Or how do you think about that?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, I suppose it definitely adds a little bit of pressure, but again, luckily we, we have great investors, so, so Joe and Kevin and those guys, they are, they are just helpful. Right? so they’ve, they’ve, they’ve never put us in a position where they, are telling us about what they want their return to be or something like that.
They just are, they show up and they say, we’re here if you need us, and we’re not, if you don’t, and so that’s been a great experience. I’m certain that there are venture capital firms and relationships out there that don’t work that way. I’m thankful that we found ourselves one that does well.
Trevor: I mean, I think again, it’s an important lesson to understand that again, not only are you getting a check, but you’re getting kind of advice. You’re getting direction for the company you’re getting. Another teammate essentially with your investors. So, Sounds like you ended up with the right spot.
Josh: Yeah. We’re lucky. They’re great people. In fact, our, our, our second quarter board meeting is next week, so I’m gonna spend some time with ’em next week.
Trevor: Excellent. So, so what do you see is as the next for the company?
Josh: So we were spun out of this organization that was focused on a specific part of the supply chain, specifically something called warehouse management systems. And so for the next, you know, 18 months or so we’ll continue to focus on test automation in that space. We know it. Well, we’ve got relationships there, we’re afforded to seat of the table. As we harden our processes, as we solidify the company and sort of get our name out into the space, we began to branch out into other parts of the industries, not just supply chain, but maybe healthcare, maybe finance, so forth and so on.
So there’s the problem that we solve is not a supply chain specific problem. As I was saying at the beginning of this, you know, basically all companies have this challenge. , they’re running their business with these complex pieces of software, these software systems. we just happen to start in this supply chain space.
So as we establish our processes, we know that everybody else out there is facing a common problem and we’ll, we’ll go after it.
Trevor: So, yeah. Talk about how that would work for something not in, in, in the space that you’re working with now. I mean, how would you apply this platform to kind of a different field.
Josh: So, I mean, if you’ve ever been to, you know, an airline or something, and you’re trying to check in and they’re like, oh, you’re gonna have to give us a minute, it’s a new system, we’re having some problems or you go to the dentist and they can’t check you in because they just got that system upgraded. Or they don’t know how it works, or there’s some problem going on.
That’s I say all these businesses are powered by some software system. The way that our platform works is that we just need someone who understands how the system should work. so then we’ll just sit down and write it down almost what, well, what we would call a standard operating procedure, right?
Tell us the way that it should work, our software will drive that software in accordance with that happy path, and then if it doesn’t go that way, well we’ll tell you that something else happened. And so that’s generally, you know, how, how we approach the problems. And so it actually will also help sometimes, our clients document, what is the process, right? Which can also sort of be a helpful side effect.
Trevor: Yeah. So is this, is it a challenging company to scale kind of into a larger size, just given the amount of independent variables for each of these different clients? Or is it something. you know, has you talked about a little at the beginning about some things that are repeat problems that show up over and over again, but is it still labor intensive and difficult to scale?
Josh: Yeah, I mean, it, it can be right, depending on how complex the system is, you’re gonna need someone, whether it’s us, you know, one of your employees or consultant, who’s gonna sit down and start writing tests and preparing data, so forth and so on. So our path to making that scale happen the way we want is through partnerships.
So what we’ve done is we’ve, we’ve partnered with some great organizations. There’s, there’s an organization headquarter done in Atlanta called Delaplex. They have a giant team of talented people. And so when we find ourselves in a situation where we need to do a lot of work, but we don’t have the staff or something like that, then we will work with our partners.
They’ll give us some engineers, you know, we’ve trained them up and they can help us scale up and down and flex and things like that. But also many of our channel partners have expertise on systems that we don’t have expertise on. So we’ll provide continuous test automation expertise.
We’ll talk about how to think about these challenging problems and how to approach them, but we don’t need to understand the system under test or the business processes that are actually being tested. We can do that through a partnership.
Trevor: Okay. Yeah, I think that makes sense. Kind of stepping back a little bit, as you look back over Cycle Labs and kind of your journey kind of before that, is there something that stands out to you as you’re most proud of this, or that was a huge success for you that you still kinda look back at and just like that just gives you that smile?
Josh: Well, I think, you know, the thing that I’m most proud of is the fact that, you know, even if Cycle Labs has never actually hits all of its goals or whatever, that we’ve given a lot of families and a lot of employees, you know, a good salary, a fun place to work and a path to the next part of their professional journey.
So like helping people move from supply chain, into software, enterprise software and helping them solve challenging problems or progress their career and helping them mature in sort of how they think about their, their career path and things like that.
That is kind of the ultimate success, right? We’ve done that for these people. We’ve done it for over a decade already, at Cycle Labs we’ve already done it for one year and we’ll do it for many more years. So whether or not the company ever hits its goals or not, we’ve done really good things for our employees. And so that’s a, yeah, I would say certainly something I would define as success.
Trevor: That’s awesome. Any more spinout companies coming?
Josh: I don’t think so. No, at least not for a while. I gotta build back up that energy reserve if that’s ever gonna happen. But I don’t see that happening with Cycle Labs.
Trevor: That’s funny. So we are the Founder Shares podcast. And so I always like to ask the founders that come on, you know, if you had one piece of advice for somebody who’s either got their own company now or thinking about starting their company in the future. What what’s that advice?
Josh: For me it would be that you can’t do it alone. right. I mean, certainly you almost have to sometimes in the early days, but as soon as you can, as soon as it makes sense, you know, release some of that control, bring on someone, you trust, be trusting of them and with them, you know, be transparent, and they will trust you back.
Right. And then, and then once you trust someone, you don’t have to feel like everything has to flow through you. So find someone who can help you get it done.
Trevor: Is, is that a skill that you’ve always had or is that something you’ve had to kind of grow into?
Josh: You know, one of, one of my, teammates we were having lunch the other day and he was kind of, you know, commenting on sort of the network I have and the friendships I have and things like that.
And he was like, well, how do you go about doing that? And I was like, I, I don’t know. I, I thought about it for a little while. I was like, I think you, I think you’d just be sincere. Right. Actually care about other people.
Trevor: It does help when it’s actual, genuine. Yeah, but I mean, even, even the, just the question of being able to delegate into trust that your team to kind of take this and meet this goal and that they’re gonna be able to do it. It doesn’t have to all run through you. I’m always impressed to hear if that is kind of a natural instinct or something that you had to.
Josh: Yeah. that I think is something that takes some work, right? Because you have to be able to communicate the strategy and you have to be able to distill it down into metrics, sub success that could be communicated to other people in the organization and that they can then subsequently communicate to other people.
So, you know, it’s certainly distilling down that. Into something that can be shared. That’s something that people can measure against. That takes a lot of work. And I’m not sure that there’s just a quick lesson on how to do that. I think it’s a lot of getting things wrong to find out what the right thing is.
Trevor: No, I, I think that makes a lot of sense and I do think it is a good skill to have, but a tough one to come by. So Josh, how can our listeners reach you if they’re interested in reaching out and connecting?
Josh: Yeah. I, I don’t do a ton of social media, but I am decently active on LinkedIn. That might still be one of those things where the younger version of myself was thinking, the older version of myself was lame, but that’s who I am these days. You can find me on LinkedIn.
Trevor: Well, I, Josh, I really appreciate the conversation. I enjoyed it a lot and I look forward to seeing what happens for Cycle Labs in the future.
Josh: Yeah. Thanks Trevor. It’s been a lot of fun. Really appreciate it.
Hosted by Trevor Schmidt, Founder Shares is brought to you by Hutchison PLLC and is edited and produced by Earfluence.