Founder Series: Art Interviews Ryan

Art Harrison

I sat down with my business partner and long-time friend, Ryan Kimber to talk about our journey from networking and eating snacks at Beaver Scouts, to co-founding and building FormHero. As we scale our services, take on new team members and grow as a company we wanted to look back at where we were and where we’re going.

To hear what I had to say, when the tables were turned, check out the companion article we'll be posting in a few days.

So, let’s get right down to it, we’ve known each other a long time. Do you think we actually learned anything as Beaver Scouts?

I don't know if it started with Beavers, but around that time I started to like to build things from scratch, really seeing an idea become something.

What’s the hardest thing about working with me?

“Well, I have good news and bad news about that, but not really that bad.”

The bad news is, I think I hear this everyday, and I'm pretty certain, the more you insist the bad news isn't really that bad, the worse it is.

The good news is, when you don't downplay the bad news, I know the good news part is going to be great.

From the Development perspective, what do we do?

We are using technology to ease the pain points in the exhausting process of completing what is usually paperwork for major life events such as securing a mortgage or a business loan. Our platform allows our clients, typically big financial institutions, to build custom forms and use custom code to not just collect data, but apply it to complete the forms.

What is exciting is the ability to add features that further customize how our platform is being used for each client. That’s where you come in Art; you are incredibly good at identifying where we are missing a feature; as well as leveraging our current state to engage new business.

We’re still knocking out our official mission, vision and values. What do you think we’ll see come out of that?

As a business, we want to be the premier enterprise data collection tool. We want to be the company making it as easy as possible for users to provide the information required for whatever process they are involved in.

As an employer, we are trying to focus on honesty, transparency and integrity. I think you can foster a positive and robust internal culture when your teams know you are honest and transparent with them. As a small company, we are often competing with the big names in technology. We are always upfront and clear with our prospects around our size and our capabilities. If we can do maintain that same sense of openness internally, we can ensure our employees are happy.

We are a scale-up so everyone here still wears multiple hats. We also don’t follow a lot of the startup culture - we have a pretty flat hierarchy and we’re aren’t giving out the C-level or even Senior Director title. We are focused instead on hiring experienced people - our average age is 37 - who are excited about what we are doing, want to take on the shared ownership and responsibility for taking us to the next level and ensuring we succeed. We are building a culture that nurtures respect and learning. We are hiring people who exemplify the kind of values we want to have. These are role models and mentors for the junior staff that is here. It’s a trickle-down effect.

Why would someone want to for me (Art)? And for you?

We both have a real passion for what we do and for connecting what we're building with real value for our clients. I know that doesn't sound very exciting, but it's a great thing to build a company and culture around.

We're also both dedicated family men who understand that people have lives outside of work and need to find some balance between that life and their work.

In taking those things together, I like to think we've created an environment where our teams know that sometimes life outside of work needs to take priority, sometimes work needs to take priority and sometimes there's a good balance. Our teams communicate well and are able to gear up when someone else needs to gear down a bit, and that goes top-to-bottom. You and I have our sleeves rolled up and right alongside our teams to pitch in.

What did you think when the possibility of joining OneEleven came up?

OneEleven is scaleup space where companies are already succeeding on several facets; the ability to be part of that and to interact and learn from those other companies is a key attraction. I knew we were ready to grow - we were already growing - and the fact that they are selective about who is a part of their community ensures that we can have valuable conversations with other founders. Furthermore, the time and effort saved through their managed services is more time for us to build FormHero.

What advice do you have for other startups that are ready to scale?

People should eschew the Hollywood myth of what a successful startup looks like. No benevolent investor is waiting to fund your vision. You can still build a business the old-fashioned way, by delivering a service that people are willing to pay for (instead of raising money and measuring runway). You have to work just as hard, if not harder, to scale up than you did to build a prototype someone was interested in when you started off.  The management team at OneEleven is good is helping you find those avenues.

What do you think our combined superpower is?

Individually we’re good at putting out fires. Together we can put out massive fires. As a result, nothing throws us off our game. We will either anticipate an issue and fill that gap, or we encounter it and come up with a solution. I’d say that’s what we are looking for in people who join us and maybe a reflection of where they are in life and their careers right now too - we need firefighters and people who can roll with the punches but continue to be motivated to grow and build.

If you are a problem-solver and firefighter, we want to talk to you. If you want to join us on our mission to make life easier for anyone interacting with financial institutions, consider joining Art and myself at FormHero. Check out our opportunities here and stay updated by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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