OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | PeopleWise: Adam Wulf
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PeopleWise: Adam Wulf

Leaning on a background in software development and business, Adam Wulf launched several ventures after graduating from Rice University in 2005, working for several major software companies along the way. He now resides in Houston, Texas where he runs his two companies, Graceful Construction and Milestone Made, and serves as mentor for OwlSpark startup teams.

Studying Computer Science and Managerial Studies during his time as an undergraduate student, Adam learned as much about software and starting his own business as he could. He was inspired by his father who ran his own veterinarian clinic, and enrolled in the only entrepreneurially-oriented class at Rice at the time.

I would read like the tech news online, TechCrunch or whatever. All I would hear was ‘random guy builds stupid service and gets $20 million in funding’ and suddenly it’s Twitter. I have no idea what that is or how you did that, and why you just got so much money, but why isn’t anybody giving me money?

Leaning on a background in software development and business, Adam Wulf launched several ventures after graduating from Rice University in 2005, working for several major software companies along the way. He now resides in Houston, Texas where he runs his two companies, Graceful Construction and Milestone Made, and serves as mentor for OwlSpark startup teams.

Studying Computer Science and Managerial Studies during his time as an undergraduate student, Adam learned as much about software and starting his own business as he could. He was inspired by his father who ran his own veterinarian clinic, and enrolled in the only entrepreneurially-oriented class at Rice at the time.

I would read like the tech news online, TechCrunch or whatever. All I would hear was ‘random guy builds stupid service and gets $20 million in funding’ and suddenly it’s Twitter. I have no idea what that is or how you did that, and why you just got so much money, but why isn’t anybody giving me money?

Adam built his first app, Jotlet, as an undergraduate student, and continued working full-time on the business following graduation. Having “no idea” what he was doing at the time, Adam spent all of his resources on the development of the product.

“I built the product first, and looked for customers second. What I should have done, and what they’re teaching here, is that you need to validate those customers upfront, validate the problem upfront, and then you build a product to fit that problem.” It ended up working out for Adam, however—Jotlet was acquired by Jive Software in April of 2008. From there, Adam worked as a software engineer for Jive, where he gained experience in managing small- and large-scale engineering teams, and learned the importance of customer validation in the sales and product development cycles.

While at Jive, Adam built his second app, Here, File File. The app was featured in an Apple iPhone commercial in March 2010. Adam admits he didn’t follow his own advice, and front-loaded the development of the software. However, due to an award-winning promo video, Here, File File took off and his company, Graceful Construction, became extremely successful.

In the creation of his third company, Milestone Made, Adam heeded the maxim of “customer needs first, product development second.” Although he first built an app called LooseLeaf for business purposes, Adam realized it was better suited for educational environments and pivoted his business.

If I could give myself advice I would say, ‘It’s great you have a target market, it’s great it probably fits there, but get a wider spread of potential customers and make sure it’s the best fit.’

When asked what advice and wisdom he would give to the founders at OwlSpark, he said:

Go do your interviews. You’re already behind the curve, don’t get behind the curve. You’re behind the curve on Day 1. It’s so important you should have been doing it for the past 6 months, and you should do it for the next 6 months. And then after you release your product you continue doing it. It’s one of those things you should never stop. Get out of the building and talk to people, it makes a big difference.

As our founders prepare for customer interviews in Week 2, Adam’s words serve as an important reminder that no matter how many features you have, no one will buy your product unless it solves their problem.