Editor’s Note: This is a new Q&A series from StartUp Beat that features entrepreneurs who have successfully guided their startups (or multiple startups) to maturity. It is a complement to StartUp Beat’s coverage of early-stage startups and an effort to provide further insight into the experiences of tech entrepreneurs.
Bio: Paul King, founder, president, and board director, Hercules Networks/GoCharge—maker of a self-service mobile device charging kiosk that contains multiple charging tips for a convenient, powerful and safe charge for cell phones, blackberries, iPhones and other mobile devices. Mr. King is the founder of Hercules Networks and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, Magna Cum Laude. He was the founder of International Sales Team Realty generating more than $40 million in annual sales. He developed Chase Mortgage and New Wave Title Company in Sunny Isles Florida prior to commencing with Hercules. He was named in the top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25 by Business Week magazine 2009.
SUB: What was your first entrepreneurial venture?
King: I started a tennis camp when I was 18. It was a lot of fun. I got 20-25 kids per week for 6 weeks. We picked them up and dropped them off every day and worked with them from 10am-4pm. I was hooked after that experience.
SUB: What prompted you to start GoCharge in the first place?
King: My phone was always dying while I was out. My friends had the same issues. I knew there was a demand for it.
SUB: Was there a point at which you knew GoCharge would hit it big?
King: I was recognized as a 25 under 25 Entrepreneur by BusinessWeek. That, and when Bacardi launched a 50 bar NYC network with us.
SUB: Was there a “tipping point” when GoCharge really picked up steam and where it started growing exponentially?
King: Not really. It’s been a steady growth since we started.
SUB: What were the first steps you took to establishing GoCharge?
King: Think a lot about the business plan, and then meet with investors to gauge interest. Luckily, those meetings turned from ‘learning’ to them actually wanting to invest.
SUB: If you had it to do over again, what would the first concrete step to establishing GoCharge have been?
King: Probably to focus on one market at a time, and execute it effectively before moving to the next market. For example, get machines into as many bars as possible, then move to coffee shops, etc.
SUB: What were the most significant obstacles to growing GoCharge to maturity?
King: Getting the right team together; Capital cost to build machines.
SUB: What kinds of outside funding did you raise?
King: About 2.5 million from private investors.
SUB: What was the metric/milestone that indicated to you that GoCharge had moved past startup stage?
King: Major brands like AT&T, Sprint, and Bacardi working with us.
SUB: What were the most important lessons you learned about entrepreneurship while building GoCharge?
King: That it’s a journey. Very tough. And you have to have stamina to make it. But it feels really good once you do.