We’re a few weeks into the 2016 Innovators Program Raleigh, an accelerator program for early-stage, high-growth startups supported by Red Hat, Citrix, and HQ Raleigh. Each week, we’re featuring a Q&A with one of the teams in the three-month program. For this feature, we chatted with Zach Milburn, co-founder of Nebula, a modular, customizable workstation suite that he launched with his brother Geoff.
With Nebula, users have access to an adaptable, “pay-as-you-go” SaaS tool to manage their various business needs. Below, Zach tells us about their startup journey thus far, and where they hope to go after the Innovators Program.
Innovators Program (IP): Why did you decide to apply for the Innovators Program?
Zach Milburn (ZM): Our dev/design shop LaunchLab has been doing quite well since we founded it a year ago, meaning there is some opportunity cost involved in attending all of the design sprint workshops, meetings, etc. That being said, the connections and exposure from the program will likely be invaluable, and the grant funds certainly don’t hurt. One of our goals this year is to move away from relying on consultancy work and to tackle a more scalable, recurring business model. This program will help us make that transition with more ease.
ZM: Connections, connections, connections. Our belief is that most successful companies or entrepreneurs, if they already have the right work ethic and skill sets, “make it” largely due to a few valuable connections — whether that be an investor, customer, or mentor — likely a combination of all three. We are hoping to meet a few of those connections during this process.
IP: What skills or backgrounds do you each bring to your team?
ZM: We’ve been building web applications for the past 5 years or so in one form or another. We only started getting paid to do this about 1.5 years ago, and have been very successful in that space. We both do a bit of everything, but as far as our current roles go: I (Zach) am the hustler/business side, and Geoff is the design and development side. Geoff is arguably one of the top developers in the country. That isn’t by our own words, we’ve heard this multiple times from other successful entrepreneurs who know the space.
We are strong compliments and thoroughly enjoy what the other hates and vice versa, minus a few areas such as design, gamifying everything, and making money. We both graduated from NC State with degrees in business/entrepreneurship and have several years of experience both in working closely with dozens of start-ups as well as being a startup ourselves.
IP: What was the “ah-ha” moment that led to starting your company?
ZM: It was more-so a series of “ah-ha” moments, or more accurately, a few “hmm…” moments. The more we dealt with customers, the same patterns began to consistently emerge, and we eventually arrived at Nebula as a solution to those problems.
ZM: We are building a platform to help technically-averse companies consolidate and simplify their cloud software using our easily customizable content management system (think, a dashboard). We do so by offering a few of the most popular API integrations as well as the simplest pieces of the most common cloud software services, such as CRM and website management.
Our theory is that we use and pay for way too many cloud services, and these services are often so cumbersome and complex that they are no longer useful. We’ve also found that many companies are already paying huge sums of money to have contractors build custom solutions for them, and we will be able to provide superior service at a fraction of the cost.
IP: When you are not working tirelessly to launch a company, how do you spend your time?
ZM: Eat, sleep, watch Netflix, hang out. Nothing too different from the average person, although we do theorize in unusual amounts about the future, politics, and MBTI. We play a lot of chess too, and other strategic games. We probably do come up with a new business idea everyday, and have to painfully accept we have no time for it. For example, last week we decided we could probably lease a Tesla Model S, use it for half a month and rent it for the other half and make a profit.
IP: Any big takeaways from the design sprint that you’re excited to integrate into your business?
ZM: It gave us an opportunity to really throw everything — criticisms, concerns, ideas — at our current plan of action. We didn’t actually change much, and we think that’s a good thing because now we can be more confident with what we started off with. It did really help us simplify how we explain what it is that we are doing to different audiences.
IP: How do you stay energized for the long workdays of entrepreneurship? go-to snacks? rituals?
ZM: Coffee. Sometimes MATI.
Stay tuned for more updates from Nebula and the other Innovators Program participants in the coming weeks!