Next up for the Catapult Company Profile series is Occasion, a resident company that joined Catapult in September 2014. With their international founding team and distinct mission, Occasion is thriving in the booking industry. Occasion helps merchants easily accept bookings and appointments online, from their own website – not a 3rd party page. Customers can easily and quickly complete their booking in one step from smartphones, tablets or computers, using a seamless and intuitive interface. Businesses and their customers benefit, thanks to Occasion.
Launched in the summer of 2013, Occasion completed its 10,000th booking this past September!
We were able to chat with Aksh Gupta, one of the four Occasion cofounders, to learn about the growing company, what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and how to relax with your team. Whiskey, anyone?
What is your founding story? How did your company come to be?
Occasion has four cofounders - Eric, Kieran, Pelle, and myself. Our founding story is as coincidental as it gets.
In 2013, Pelle was working in the Netherlands on developing a ticketing software for concert halls, while Eric and I were building a booking software in Chicago for family entertainment businesses. Pelle invited Kieran to join his company in the Netherlands to help build the software. Kieran knew me from his visit to Chicago in 2011. Around the same time Kieran was joining Pelle's company, I asked Kieran to join mine in Chicago. Kieran brought the two independent startups together so we could jointly build the product and the business.
Tell us a little bit about where Occasion is right now? What has your team been working on recently?
Occasion is a seed stage company with revenues and hundreds of businesses as customers. We raised a strategic round of funding in April 2013 and September 2014 from Chicago-based angels. These investors are entrepreneurs themselves who are helping Occasion establish processes around product and sales and marketing so we can scale to thousands of businesses in 2015.
What differentiates Occasion from other online scheduling companies?
We live and breathe one mission - to help our businesses get bookings. This maniacal focus helps us prioritize on doing things that are important. We care a lot about where bookings come from, when do they happen, what drives consumers to book and how can we make that a better experience for both the business and the consumer.
What cultural differences, if any, have there been with having an international founding team?
Dutch people are pretty "Americanized". They speak fluent English and have a similar work ethic. In fact, Brad Keywell (cofounder of Groupon) recently said that Dutch people are the most entrepreneurial second to only Americans.
What do you look for in new employees?
It's cliche, but a willingness to learn and figure it out is a trait that any startup will value. Most cofounding teams are like first-time parents - you have to figure it out as you go along.
What would you say is the most important skill needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
The ability to zoom-in and zoom-out. What I mean by that is -- one should get really good at zooming out and looking at the big picture and then zooming in and working on the details. The zoomed-out view will guide you and help you adjust your plans and strategy. The zoomed in view will force you to execute against the plan.
What is the best startup/entrepreneurial advice you ever received? What was the worst?
The worst advice is the one that comes in the form of "you should do this..." when the person giving the advice has never done that himself.
There are too many good things we've been told to list here. But, the thing everybody should remember is, in the early stages embedding oneself in a network of operators will prove immensely invaluable. They will help you avoid costly mistakes, which is a winning strategy.
What does your team do to bond/relax?
We have an eclectic whiskey collection in our office. We are building traditions around what the entire team does when we hit a milestone. For example, when we release a big feature, the entire team will celebrate with a little Scotch tasting regardless of the hour in the day. It's little things like this that keep the team bonded together.
Do you ever find it difficult to take a break from your business? How (if at all) do you find work/life balance? What do you do in your free time?
Funny you ask -- Kieran and I were laughing when one of our friends mentioned "work-life balance". For entrepreneurs, there is no work-life balance. No successful entrepreneur, take John D Rockefeller to Larry Page, aspires to start a company so they can achieve a "work-life balance".
Do you listen to music while you work? What's on your playlist?
Personally, I listen to film scores on Songza. They are perfectly rhythmic to keep the work beat up. Kieran is also a music composer so his music is popular at the office.
What's your go-to food for working late?
Cosi -- no doubt. Amazing bread, salad and pizza.
What is most beneficial about sharing a space with multiple entrepreneurs? What is the best part of Catapult?
Working in the same space with some of the smartest people ten feet away is a huge asset. It's like having an extended team of your own. If you’re running into a problem, there's a high probability someone else has been there before you and they can help you solve it fast. Catapult is a hidden gem. If a startup is truly passionate about building it's own culture, Catapult is a great first step before you get your own space.