Andy Karuza, CEO and founder of Fensens and brandbuddee.com LLC, is a 10 year entrepreneurial vet with experience in consumer electronics and software. He has had the experience working alongside many great companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, BMC Software, Otterbox, Kinivo, Lenovo, and many more.
His latest venture FenSens is the world's first wireless parking sensor and included mobile app for IoS and Android. His team is looking to make new car technology affordable and easy-to-use using smart devices and smartphone-enabled user interfaces.
In this interview with Startup Savant, Andy shares his entrepreneurial story on solving a global problem, which started as a personal problem experienced by him and a close friend. Andy also tells us what his motivations are, how to overcome startup troubles and his top advice for aspiring game-changers.
After you're done absorbing Andy's entrepreneurial journey, be sure to follow him on Twitter for FenSens' latest mobile breakthroughs!
What motivated you to start FenSens? Did you see a way to serve customers better than your competitors?
My partner Henry came to me with an idea to do a Bluetooth enabled parking sensor. After thinking about it over the weekend, the concept evolved a bit more based on what we were seeing in the real world.
Henry had the real worry about backing over his kid. I noticed that practically everybody struggled when trying to parallel park on a busy street. That’s what made us look further into why people didn’t have this great technology that’s a big selling point for many new vehicles today.
We found the two key barriers to this technology were that it was too expensive or much too difficult to install and typically requiring an expensive professional to help.
How have your motivations changed since you first started FenSens? Is there an area that you have grown most?
I think it’s our understanding that this is a global problem. So far we have had customer interest from over 163 countries, it’s astounding. It’s helped us rethink our company as a global entity as opposed to just a US based company. We are trying to make roads safer around the world.
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you have hit with your business? How did you get there?
We have hit quite a few. We’ve been blessed with a lot of interest from mainstream media and have already pre-sold over $82,000 in units. We’ve also established retail interest from over 100 countries, although it will take careful management and patience to help fully develop those channels so that it’s a win-win for both our company and our partners.
For us, it’s really about being patient first and foremost. It’s easy to get excited with what you have, but there is a careful process you have to follow when developing a product and building a company. We’re keeping our partners abreast as we continue to move our product into production.
Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape FenSens?
I think every opportunity allows you to learn something from it. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by many incredible entrepreneurs, artists, community leaders, and overall go-getters that inspire and challenge me everyday.
While in many cases, we don’t have the same background or even operate in the same field, I’m still able to learn a lot from their methods or overall mindset. You embrace your failures and take responsibility of it as a learning opportunity, but you also need to realize that your success is largely based on the positive influence others have bestowed upon you.
Who you surround yourself with has everything to do with the success of your company, no matter how smart, talented, or hard-working you are.
What’s your most unforgettable experience as an entrepreneur?
I love the initial “aha” moment and the initial moment of validation when you get your first paying customers or users. However, it’s important not to get too caught up in that. The responsibility is massive and you still have a lot of work left to optimize your business model and grow.
What’s the biggest thing you struggle with as a business owner? Do you have any advice for how future entrepreneurs can overcome it?
As I mentioned surrounding yourself with the right people is so important, it’s also very important to not surround yourself with the wrong people. A bad apple can massively disrupt a company or even kill it altogether.
Be careful with who you bring on as a co-founder or sign any legal agreement with. The best way to overcome this is to do thorough background checks and to always get concrete examples or references before committing to somebody. Anybody can say they will do something for you, but what they can actually show is the only thing that matters. As they say, be slow to hire and quick to fire.
Are you using any Apps that help you stay on track every day?
I constantly take notes in order to stay organized. I’m naturally ADHD, which gives me a lot of energy and a creative mindset, but the bad side is that I can get sidetracked if I’m not careful.
To overcome this, I usually shut out distractions and I write everything down. Being organized is one of the most important skills you can have in your professional career. I use Google Calendar’s notes section to list out ideas, tasks to be completed, etc.
How does being an entrepreneur affect your relationships with your friends and family?
It takes a lot of balance. I don’t have any kids and I live a pretty mobile life on purpose, because I both enjoy and need the flexibility for my business. However, many people have kids, mortgages, and a lot more complex commitments than I do. It’s important to balance work-life by setting boundaries and properly communicating with your friends and family.
Don’t make commitments you can’t keep. Know when to put down the laptop and stick to it. Make time to hang out with your significant other, family, and friends. You’ll have healthier relationships and you will be living a healthier life, too. Happiness is directly correlated with your overall health.
Looking back, what’s one thing you would do differently with FenSens? Why would you change it?
As I mentioned before, I think we brought on somebody to the team that we didn’t quite vet properly. The relationship didn’t’ work out and in retrospect, I could have done a bit more due diligence myself.
However, you learn from it and move on. Keep a clear vision for your company and carefully select a team that will give you a good foundation to build from. Bring on people that add value to the company and whom are committed. Move on quickly if you find that it won’t work out in the long-term.
What advice would you give to our readers who want to start a business in Seattle? Where should they start?
Get out and meet other entrepreneurs. Many times, you will be much better off with a good co-founding partner. You can’t be afraid to talk about your idea.
Honestly, having people rip off your idea is the least of your worries, the biggest cause of failure for aspiring entrepreneurs is that their ideas never even get started down the road to becoming a real thing. Maybe you can have an NDA signed during an in depth discussion, but I would recommend to at least openly talk about your concept from a high level with others to see who else is might be passionate about being a part of your venture.
Somebody that has a genuine interest in being an entrepreneur (not just riding the band wagon) and solving the problem you want to solve will beat any average want to be competitor almost every time.