California Dreamin’ turned into a dream come true in 2015 for our CEO Alan Wilson, who beat stiff competition to win a place on the renowned Blackbox Connect programme. And this week, two years’ later, he’s attending the 19th programme but this time as an entrepreneur in residence.
Blackbox is a global non-profit that aims to help talented startup founders with resources, mentorship and intensive programs.
Blackbox Connect is a two-week residential program in Silicon Valley (San Francisco baby!) Following an intense round of applications and interviews, the handpicked lucky start-up founders from across the globe come together for ten days of talks, workshops, mentoring and networking – All in order to emerge “a more resilient entrepreneur” having experienced “a profound mindset shift that elevates … personal and professional lives”.
Expandly at the Time
At the time of starting the programme, Expandly was a startup in the truest sense of the word and Alan, having worked with and learnt from many different entrepreneurs, was capable but just needed that little extra boost:
“As a ‘technical’ single founder, I found even explaining what Expandly did as difficult. Blackbox gave me huge confidence in Expandly and helped me to understand the value proposition”.
Viva Las Vegas
Alan fully embraced the up and down journey and everything else the two weeks at Blackbox Connect had to offer – even the downtime:
“After the first week I felt completely out of place: All of these excellent entrepreneurs, from all around the globe and with so much experience…I felt out of my depth and probably gave myself too hard a time. So when a few others suggested we go to Vegas for the weekend, I jumped at the chance. The long 10 hour drive back on Sunday night meant a lot of thinking time and a ‘breakthrough moment’, which led to the second week being infinitely better; I’d realised just how special Expandly was as a product and I’d realised that I didn’t need to be anything other than ‘me’.”
One Pitch in a Line
One of the most useful challenges was condensing the Expandly pitch into just one line. Expandly is a huge multichannel management software tool – integrating with sales channel(s) Amazon, eBay and Etsy, as well as shopping carts including Shopify, Magento and Woocommerce. Plus with live inventory management, listing management, invoicing, reporting, shipping and accounting integration it’s difficult to condense into a paragraph, let alone a sentence.
The challenge was accepted and if you ever meet Alan in person, you’ll be sure to hear his pitch in a line!
Since You’ve Been Gone
And since 2015, Expandly has gone from strength to strength:
“Before Blackbox we were a small team working in my garage alongside a rowing machine, slot machine and lawnmower. Since then we’ve raised over $1m, have an 18-person strong team and paying customers in 5 continents. Blackbox was a huge contribution to this rise from the days of the garage.”
Entrepreneur in Residence
So impressed with Alan’s commitment to the Blackbox programme, he is attending the Blackbox Connect programme again two years’ later but on the other side of the table. As an Entrepreneur in residence, Alan will be offering his expertise and experience; hoping to help other entrepreneurs on their journeys just like he was helped two years ago.
And Alan’s top tip for those budding entrepreneurs attending the programme over the next two weeks:
“You only die once – Make it happen”
If you would like to be considered for the next Blackbox Connect programme, check out their website