Candyce Edelen – StartUp FoCo Podcast

Candyce Edelen knows her stuff when it comes to growing your business to the next level. Her company Propel Growth specializes in scaling companies beyond the $5M revenue mark.

You can check out Candyce’s panel: LinkedIn Prospecting for B2B Sales on Tuesday February 26th, 11:00am-12:00pm @ Cohere Coworking.

Let’s get to know Candyce!

Hi, I’m Candyce Edelen, I am the CEO of Propel Growth. We’re a 12 year old company doing marketing consulting. We work specifically with financial technology companies, and especially with commercial real estate tech companies, although we’ve worked with other markets in the past. Our primary focus is working with companies that are at that stage in their growth where they’ve made it past that $5 million mark in revenue, and now they’re trying to scale up to become bigger and maybe do an exit. About 12 of our clients in the last 10 years have had successful exits, and so what we focus on is helping companies get the messaging right for their sales and marketing strategy, and scale, build the business, land the customers, and build a sustainable business.

One of the challenges in Northern Colorado, in particular, is scaling up a business into something bigger than just a startup.

Yeah, True Space did some research, and they’re actually extending the research with a partnership with Gannet right now, that they just presented. And it was scary.

What they were finding in terms of consistent growth, they’re looking for consistent increases in revenue, free cash flow, consistent growth over a protracted period of five or more years. And they were saying that Colorado has a pretty poor startup to scale up success rate. And this is really lowering the growth rates in Colorado, especially in the startup world.

They’re finding that only 4% of companies that startup ever get to $1 million in revenue. Out of that 4%, only 10% of them make it to $10 million, and only 15% of the 10% manage to get into a growth phase going over $10 million and even growing past $50 million.

That is the type of sustainable and repeatable business that we need in Colorado. We need a lot of those, and I’m not seeing it happen, and I don’t really understand why that’s happening. We’re recent transplants, we’ve been here for about three and a half years coming out of New York, and you definitely see a more vibrant startup world there than you do here.

Do you see that happening in multiple industries, or is it specific to a subtype of startup?

True Space looked at 1,500 companies. And then they worked really closely with 150 of them over a period of five years. And all of those companies were growing and wanted to grow, and all of them were forecasting growth. But only 14 of them made it past $10 million.

From what I understand, they were looking across multiple spaces. There were some in tech, manufacturing, and services businesses. 60-80 said they were tech, three were manufacturing, and the rest of them were services.

I don’t think it’s specific to a given industry, I think it’s more about the resources available. One thing they said in that research was that 75% of all venture capital is going to three areas, California, New York, and Boston. So, we’re not getting it.

I even talked to somebody from the Rockies Venture Club, who was commenting that they’re not even investing here locally, even though it’s the Rockies Venture Club, that doesn’t mean that they’re trying to build sustainable businesses here in Colorado.

I also don’t see a desire in startups to grow organically. And I think organic growth is ultimately more sustainable than venture funded growth. So, I think there’s both a lack of venture funding here, but there’s also a lack of a sense of being able to grow something organically.

Maybe it’s impatience that lends itself to that, where we see that money going elsewhere.

Do you think that Fort Collins is having trouble attracting the right talent to staff these startups?

That’s a fair question. I think the bigger problem is retaining talent. Is it’s easy for a startup to find talent to begin with, since we’re a college town, it’s easy to pick up a really talented college student, grow them through the process of starting the business.

But, keeping them here comparatively to a salary in Bolder, or a salary in Denver, is really difficult. And we’re seeing a lot of these commuter towns pop up where you might work and play there, but you certainly can’t afford to live there. That’s one of the main struggles of Fort Collins I suspect across industries, startups, and even artists are struggling with this, that they love to work and play in Fort Collins, but some of them just can’t afford to live here any more.

One of the key things as we grow as a city will be maintaining our ability to retain talent, retain core artists, retain our community. And I think that that, as we grow, is going to be not just a business challenge, but a community challenge.

I totally agree with you, and I think one of the biggest problems is there’s a lack of good paying jobs. I mean I’ve talked to so many people that have three or four gigs that they’re doing. It’s like a part time job here and a part time job there, because they cannot afford to pay rent on one job. The jobs that seem to be here in abundance don’t pay exceptionally well, and then the housing market is starting to price out.

I was talking to a woman who’s a teller at a local credit union. She’s full time, she’s been there for a while, so she must be making a reasonable salary. And then her boyfriend is full-time employed too, they have a child. All they’re looking for is a two bedroom apartment, and they cannot afford to live in Fort Collins on two probably lower middle income salaries, full-time salaries. They can’t afford rent here for a two bedroom apartment.

That I think is a serious problem for being able to retain people, because it’s like eventually people are going to move out if they want to try to get ahead.

Is that a challenge that you think is addressable? And will it come up during your startup week talk?

That’s a great question. So, my startup week talk is actually going to be all about business development. So, taking a business, and I’m going to assume that the people that are attending it have a good, viable product market fit, you’ve got to start there. But, I’m going to be talking about how to use LinkedIn to generate sales opportunities. I’ve been really successful in my own efforts to drive new business in quite a large pipeline based on just doing LinkedIn outreach. I’ve had over 125 sales calls with new prospects just in six months of about five hours a week of efforts. So, that’s what I’m going to be teaching at startup week.

Have you seen this play out well elsewhere?

We have got a client that is doing it right now in Chicago and having great results with it. But it’s also something that is working across multiple markets. Because I’m in the tech and that’s where I focus, I’m seeing it be really effectively deployed with technology companies. Anybody who sells B2B with an account based strategy where there’s more than one buyer persona involved in a decision process at the company that they’re targeting, and they have a very specific target audience. It works best if you’re targeting vertically I find, although I’m also hearing that it’s been fantastically effective for investment advisors who are going out looking for high net worth and mass affluent prospects to do financial planning for.

It works across markets, it works across business types. It can work B2C, what I would consider an investment advisor. I’m finding it to be super powerful in B2B complex sales.

In terms of startup week, what are you most excited for?

I want to see people come in and get an education that will really empower them to be able to take the next step with their business, because there’s a lot of smart people in this town, and we need to start creating jobs. And we can’t create jobs if we don’t have successful businesses. And we can’t create successful businesses if we don’t have the tools to learn how to build a successful business. So, that’s what I see as super valuable about startup week.

It’s a real hub of getting everybody in the same room together to talk about those cool resources. And also hopefully figuring out ways to get paid.

That’s the important part, we need to generate revenue. It all comes down to that.

If you had any advice to relay to a newbie startup, what would you say?

Find your market. Find a need in a very tight niche market. Focus carefully and find that need and fill it really well. So, I’ve had five startups. Some of them more successful, some of them complete failures. We were building a technology business, this was back in 2000, and we were building a technology business around enterprise application integration. Zero consistency in our pipeline, we’re an eight-person company, we can’t possibly learn what we need to learn to serve all of those types of clients effectively. But we didn’t know that.

We sat down and looked at our pipeline and made the decision to focus. Focusing on such a tight niche market, we very quickly grew. We were in scale-up mode. We didn’t successfully scale it, but there were other reasons for that.

But the point being that focus was what really got us over the hurdle. Every one of our clients ended up looking very similar, that meant that the value proposition was similar, which meant that I could message it, and build a marketing platform around that. And I could train a sales team on how to sell it. We never would’ve gotten there if we’d been so horizontally focused.

Find your market.

And focus, don’t be afraid of really tight niche. People always say the riches are in the niches, it’s true. And the tighter your niche, the more likely you are going to be at being successful at that, especially in tech.

Where can we find out more about you and your business? Or you can find me on LinkedIn, I’m Candyce Edelen.

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