In 2010, Ethan Linkner and Vishal Shah were 4 years out of college when they realized they wanted to start their own business and be their own boss. The high school and college friends (#GoBlue!) identified a lack of innovation in the educational space and decided to fill the void. In true startup fashion, within weeks Ethan and Vishal quit their jobs, Ethan moved to San Francisco, and VLinks Media was born. The founders and company have come a long way since those early days in San Francisco (literally and figuratively, as they are now based in Chicago, at Catapult). Today, Ethan and Vishal are more experienced entrepreneurs - leading a team of 10, scaling their company, and looking to the future.
LearnCore, the flagship product for VLinks Media launched in August 2013, is corporate training at its best. The cloud-based platform allows organizations to create and deliver personalized training courses that are highly interactive, easy to navigate, and trackable. With its innovative Pitch IQ skills assessment and improvement tool, LearnCore is disrupting the corporate training status quo.
We sat down with Ethan Linkner, Co-Founder and VP Operations, to talk about VLinks Media, LearnCore, entrepreneurship and Catapult. It is clear that Ethan and his team are a passionate and close-knit group, confident in their company. With their dedication to quality products and services, coupled with their drive to succeed, we are confident they are on the road to becoming the backbone for all workforce development and skill building.
How has your business evolved since its inception?
We’ve grown up. We fundamentally changed the way in which we do business - we rely on systems and processes, rather than brut force. We value the long tail of a relationship instead of immediate cash flow. We’ve defined industry standards. We’ve leveled up with everything from our processes to people to our scalability. Working with Fortune 1000 companies doesn’t allow us to do start-up things.
How do you handle different opinions/conflicts among the leaders of your team?
As cliché as this sounds, we talk it out. Vishal, Ryan [Leavitt, VP Business Development] and I are typically on the same page about things, but when we don’t agree, we always have a fair discussion and allow the best solution to win. No egos, no resentment, just clear business objectives. Everyone on our team has the company’s best interest in mind.
Where do you see your company in the next 2-3 years?
We will be known as the premier workforce development platform in market. We will unfortunately have left Catapult because our team will have tripled in size. We will be working with at least 20% of the Fortune 5000 companies.
What would you say is the most important skill needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Being really good at being really good! Every single day you are faced with new challenges that you need to quickly resolve across every facet of the business.
What is most beneficial about sharing a space with multiple entrepreneurs? What is the best part of Catapult?
It is exciting to be surrounded by great friends with whom I can share stories and collaborate. I can easily build my network and get a variety of view points on analogous problems. We’ve loved working with the sponsors. Their help allows us to easily focus on our core business rather than deal with non-essential items. The city views aren’t half bad either.
What other company at Catapult are you most intrigued by and why?
Supply Vision – I am intrigued because I don't know a lot about them, but whenever I look at the mail, I always see a check or two addressed to them.
What advice would you give a first-time entrepreneur?
Hang on. You’re going to go through peaks and valleys at a frequency that you’ve yet to experience. With your hard work, determination and grit, you can make it work, but you’ve got to hang on and find balance.
What was the worst piece of entrepreneurial advice you ever received?
“Maybe...” said by every VC I’ve ever spoken to.
What does your team do to bond and relax?
Team BBQ’s at Ryan’s; Zombie murder mysteries in the loop; team basketball tournaments; and some volunteering.
Be original. Execute like a boss. Create raving fans. Buy our services.