This is a guest blog post by Aleksander Levental, 27, University of Florida graduate, 3DS alumni and CEO of Feathr, a marketing cloud for the live events industry. This is Part 2 in a 2-part series about Aleks’ journey with 3 Day Startup, from participants to founder to program facilitator. Read Part 1 here

One of the most important lessons 3DS taught us that we have actively applied to how we run our company is “build a business around the questions customers are asking.” Over the 4.5 year life of Feathr so far we have done two substantial pivots and each was significantly influenced by customer feedback. From the original digitized business card app, we transitioned to a mobile event app company – because customers approached us communicating a need and problem. We sold ~300 apps to events over two years, for over $250k in revenue.

However, over that time, we kept hearing the same question “How can this app help me generate revenue?” Rather than ignore our customers and continue undeterred down the path we wanted to travel, we took stock of all of our assets: team, money, customers, experience, advisors, etc. and decided the correct thing to do was pivot again. Instead of trying to shoehorn our customers problems into a product we had – and wanted – to sell, we could actually solve their problems better by re-imagining our business. After several months of customer and industry research, Feathr’s Event Marketing Cloud was created. We’ve been working on this product since late 2014, and I can unequivocally say that abandoning our old business, product, and pre-conceived notions was one of the smartest decisions we ever made.

Since we, Feathr, wouldn’t exist if not for the Gainesville startup community we planned from the beginning to make giving back to that community one of our company pillars. There are a lot of hungry and talented people that just need a foundation to help them get started like we did. And it’s our responsibility as those who have gone before and benefitted from the help of others to share our experience and knowledge. When the opportunity to help sponsor and facilitate a new 3DS Gainesville appeared, we jumped at the chance. We could not be prouder to have the means to sponsor an event like 3DS, and to contribute to building a foundation of entrepreneurs and companies in our home.

The fourth 3DS program at the University of Florida just wrapped up. Not only did Feathr sponsor the event, but I facilitated the weekend as well. Truthfully, facilitating was heartwarming in a way I didn’t expect to experience. As the weekend drew nearer, I couldn’t help but ruminate about how much time I was committing to something other than the mountain of work and responsibilities I have at Feathr. I didn’t realize just how special it would be to see 30–40 people in the same position we were in 4 years ago, and how much satisfaction one could get out of helping them get so much closer to their goals over a weekend. I didn’t have an appreciation for how much I had learned about starting and running a company over the last 4.5 years until I was answering questions for people who had never done it.

It was a humbling experience to remember how little we knew when we came to 3DS as participants and I would encourage every 3DS participant-turned-founder to do it, if only to remember how you started and how far you’ve come — not to mention it’s a great recruiting opportunity as you get access to some of the best talent in your area!

If you’re a 3DS participant-turned-founder and you’re interesting in sponsoring and/or facilitating a program at your alma mater, let us know here!