Interviews Saint Charles

XLR8: For the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

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Where is your company located?

Saint Charles, MO

When did you launch?

Feb. 15, 2015

What does XLR8 do?

For entrepreneurs, finding the right resources and team members is harder than it should be, because the entrepreneurship industry is fragmented, rural and suburban communities have largely been left out of the ecosystem and duplication of resources and programming is rampant. XLR8 overcomes these problems. Think of us as the for the entrepreneurship ecosystem. XLR8 is the online social matching platform that links rural and urban communities at the grassroots level, bringing together startups, investors and mentors while supporting and strengthening the ESOs that serve them.

When users go on XLR8, they enter who they are, what they’re doing, and what they need. Using our proprietary matching engine, the platform then intelligently matches users, creating otherwise unlikely encounters and providing the best possible match for entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and resources across a greatly expanded ecosystem. This shortens the “J Curve” startups face by reducing the capital burn rate from mismatched hires, thus increasing the likelihood for entrepreneurial success and boosting employment.

XLR8 is free for users, because community leaders running accelerators, EDCs, incubators and universities purchase a portal for them to utilize at $1,000 per month. EDCs alone spend nearly $8 billion per year in grants and support services. Through their portal, community leaders have access to analytics for insight into their users’ needs and interactions as well as visibility for their startups to investors, mentors and resources across the rapidly expanding XLR8 network.

Who is your target user?

Community leaders running incubators, accelerators, meetup groups, EDCs, Chambers, angel/mentor networks and universities whose constituents utilize our platform free of charge. There are more than 2,000 possible XLR8 communities in the U.S. alone. Because entrepreneurial ecosystems worldwide face similar challenges, XLR8 has the potential to scale globally.

Why did you build XLR8? What problem are you taking on?

At the grassroots level, there is no service that efficiently connects entrepreneurs to the peers, mentors, entrepreneurs, service providers, investors and ESOs that are best suited to their needs. Moreover, duplication of resources and programming among ESOs is rampant and initiatives are continuously stymied at natural and man-made borders.

How is your product different from what is currently available?

Based on XLR8 users’ roles, backgrounds and needs, our proprietary matching engine intelligently connects them while saving time, capital and resources. We supplement ESO efforts by adding online collaboration – something many communities are missing. XLR8 links users to a regional, national and ultimately global resource sharing network.

Tell us your founding story. Was there an “ah ha” moment?

Five years ago, I founded the Duree Center for Entrepreneurship at Lindenwood University to foster collaboration and entrepreneurship in the St. Louis Metro region by creating relevant programming and providing useful resources. I soon realized, however, that I was only reaching a small fraction of the ecosystem. I had to admit that I only knew who I knew, and my work was not nearly as effectual as I had envisioned.

Being an entrepreneur, I saw an opportunity. There had to be a way that would allow me to reach ALL the relevant resources and people, and do it much more efficiently than any existing service or institution.

With that conviction, the idea for XLR8 was born and evolved into what it is today: an online social matching platform that makes life easier on entrepreneurs by allowing them to communicate and collaborate more effectively, so they can easily find who and what they need.

Tell us about your founding team and their backgrounds.

Rick Duree, Founder & Chief Firestarter
Role: Build and train management team, provide strong vision and motivation, focus the operational direction and marketing efforts, clarify and enhance platform functionality and personally fund the launch.
Background: Started his first entrepreneurial endeavor, BOOK-X-CHANGE, 10 years ago, which now has 4 locations across 3 states. Rick was an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship for 5 years. He founded the Duree Center for Entrepreneurship at Lindenwood University 4 years ago. Also, he has written the book ‘Entrepreneur’s Bible.’

Kyle Scanlon

Role: In charge of all sales. Leads sales meetings, mentors sales reps, helps book appointments and attends as many sales calls as possible.
Background: 13 years Commission Salesman working all over the financial services industry, from mortgages to insurance to mutual fund.

Joe Shehata
Role: Building, maintaining, managing and deploying As the lead developer, Joe also manages and delegates tasks to other developers and designers.
Background: Joe is an entrepreneur with Egyptian background. He founded Top Tier Capital, an automated trading company running a recently developed inventive machine learning strategy. Joe programs in about 17+ programming languages.

Benjamin Bathke
Role: Creating and curating media content for the XLR8 website, leading social media and marketing campaign, optimizing internal communication, applying for pitch competitions and building the XLR8 brand.
Background: Mediapreneur from Germany with 5 years of hands-on experience in multimedia journalism. Expert in leveraging social media to disseminate information. Visited 52 countries and attended 6 universities.

Andrew Tessmer:

Role: As a member of both the sales and marketing teams Andrew helps XLR8 break into new markets while working with the sales team to build a brand that parallels what the user wants and what the user experiences. He also curates and produces media content for all of XLR8s media platforms.
Background: An experienced communications professional in the fields of public relations and marketing, Tessmer founded and built his own marketing communications company called Citra Saint Louis, which provides local startups and small businesses – including nonprofit organizations – a cost efficient and effective way to meet their marketing communications needs.