Jesse Lipson of Levitate

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Jesse Lipson, the founder and CEO of Levitate, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Levitate – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

I noticed that my wife’s company (a consulting business) was spending thousands of dollars per month on CRM and marketing automation tools, but a lot of the new clients she acquired came in through the old school process of just doing a good job keeping in touch and staying top of mind with her network in a personal and authentic way. I spoke with several other small relationship-based businesses like insurance agencies, financial advisors, and law firms, and a pattern emerged. They all grew primarily through referral and word-of-mouth, but remembering to keep in touch in a personal way with your network is very tough to scale. Once you try to keep in touch with more than about 20 contacts, people start to fall through the cracks. I founded Levitate to help relationship-based businesses use technology to scale the “keep in touch” process that is the lifeblood of their business.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

Even though I’ve built a successful company before, finding that initial spark of product/market fit is still incredibly difficult. The idea behind Levitate totally resonated with the relationship-based businesses we spoke with. That was the easy part for us. The most difficult part of our journey was building a product that would help clients do something that they knew they weren’t currently doing well and wanted to do better. There are a lot of things people want to do (e.g. eating more vegetables, working out, losing weight). The trick is building a system that makes it easy for them to do what they know they need to do better. We’ve spent the last couple of years iterating on the product to make keeping in touch easy.

What does the future hold for Levitate?

I think Levitate has the potential to help tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of small businesses grow by doing a better job keeping in touch with their clients and prospects.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Raleigh?

I used to obsess about where the Triangle ranked as a startup community nationally and spent a lot of time thinking about how we could move up and “beat” other cities. There are great tech scenes in almost every major city these days. For me, the optimal conditions for building a successful startup in a region are an abundance of talent, reasonable cost of living, and open lines of communication between entrepreneurs to share experiences. I think we have all of those things in Raleigh for sure.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurship is a career calling. Building a successful business usually takes 10-15 years from start to finish, and during that time, you’ll be thinking about the company 24/7 (even when you’re not working). If you love learning and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, it can be one of the best (and hardest) jobs in the world. I’d advise people to give it a try if they think they’d be good at it and can make it work financially. If you fail, you have some great experience that you can bring with you to your next job.

When you start your company, focus on making revenue as quickly as possible. Revenue is a sign that the market wants your product or services. People will generally tell you they like your idea to be polite. Revenue is the market’s way of telling you it likes your idea. Keep iterating rapidly until you have a product or service that people are willing to pay for and love to use. Most ideas don’t hit the bull’s eye on the first try. Rapid feedback loops are what separate successful businesses from failed ones.

Find a peer group of other entrepreneurs to share experiences with. Entrepreneurship is a lonely game and the emotional struggles are real.


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