Donald Coolidge spent 8.5 years in the Marine Corps, and was always interested in technology. While he was serving, he met another Marine who was going to college for computer science and they began building and marketing some small mobile applications – they then founded Majestyk Apps. Since then, He’s founded several companies, made a few small start-up investments, and mentors other military veterans who are trying to get involved in “tech.”
I interviewed Donald about his businesses, his successes, his challenges, and how financing helped him grow from a small start-up with small clients to a successful business servicing brand name companies.
How did the idea of your business begin, and what service does your business provide?
We help brands and entrepreneurs ideate, design, develop, and scale their companies using new technologies – primarily focusing on apps and websites, but recently become excited about 360 video, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. We’ve established ourselves as one of the best design and tech agencies in New York.
We started by building a few small apps and marketing them on a tiny (sometimes non-existent) budget. This helped us get our name out and we began gradually adding services and doing work for larger and larger brands. In the last 12 months, we’ve launched tech products for six Fortune 500 companies.
What do you wish you knew before you started your business?
Haha! We’ve done really well over the last few years even though we made a very obvious mistake right in the beginning. We purposely misspelled our name, and that’s caused some challenges marketing the company because people will search for us by using “majestic” instead of Majestyk. This has likely caused us to lose lots of potential business and hurts our digital marketing efforts. BUT – we love the name and are too stubborn to rebrand it.
How did you start marketing your product/service? What tactics have you had the most success with?
It was all about who we knew. We weren’t in any position to spend big on marketing, so we really relied on the strengths of our relationships from our young professional careers. We took a leap of faith with our contacts in key industries, and asked for introductions. They trust us already, which saved us a lot of time. We broke even or lost money on most of our early projects in order to build our portfolio. That’s why going to a traditional lender didn’t work for us.
What’s it like working with smaller companies and bigger corporate clients?
It tends to be night and day when comparing small and large companies. Each with their own pros and cons.
Startups have smaller budgets and you always face the potential of never getting paid. But, they typically have better payment terms and it is a lot of fun to dig into their strategy and help them build from the ground up. It’s amazing to watch a first time entrepreneur get their app accepted by the app store and “launched” for the first time.
The corporate clients are great because they have more resources to invest into the projects, and when they launch they have big marketing efforts to help scale. But, they put a large strain on a smaller company’s cash flow because they normally have standard payment terms that are net 90 days or sometimes more. And then you have to navigate through their internal payment process. This was where OnDeck was key for us in providing the funding needed to weather the longer payment terms. Because of that funding early in our growth, we were able to secure our first few Fortune 500 clients. And the apps we built for them were AWESOME.
What metrics do you look at to assess your business growth? How often do you look at these numbers?
Biggest one is revenue, which is what I look at constantly and try my best to predict future revenue streams. It’s actually more important to us than profit, which seems counter-intuitive. But we are looking to cement our position in a competitive industry and once we hit our revenue goal, we will optimize our profit margins. A very tech-centric approach.
Eyeballs are another way we can look at our growth. While you can’t always quantify the impact, we can look at the client base we’ve acquired over the last several years – IBM, Citi, Pepsi…these apps or websites are great for our portfolio and also get millions of people using tech we’ve built. This is great for our brand but also motivates our internal team. They know they are working on really cool products. One website we built just launched with TV commercials at the Grammys.
What was it like looking for financing as a small business owner? What sources of capital did you look into?
We were growing fast and we couldn’t handle the amount of work we wanted to do to really take our business to the next level. There were two or three major clients we were about to land, and we needed to put in bids upfront and scale our resources, because we were going to need help fast. At first, we went to banks for the financing, but we were turned down because we were a young business without a credit history – and mind you, we were profitable.
What did you like about OnDeck that made you choose us?
OnDeck was convenient and it didn’t take forever. The banks require tons of paperwork, which handcuffs the ability to take out the loan. It was a couple days turnaround for OnDeck. And with OnDeck’s quick financing, we won the bids, and from there we started to grow. It was a great move for the portfolio.
How has OnDeck helped your business grow? ROI, hires, top/bottom line increases, new clients?
We saw an initial 50% growth over the year we worked with OnDeck and that’s continued to accelerate. Our headcount has doubled as we took on more big name projects, largely because we now have the resources to bid on bigger projects and invest into winning the deals.
What are you most excited about when thinking about the future of your business?
It’s about thinking up the ideas that haven’t been thought up before. We have a great team and culture. My employees are always bring new ideas to the table, which makes us all really excited. We keep asking ourselves: how can we work with influencers? How can we use technology better?
This happened recently when we had a really great concept, internally built a prototype, and pitched it to IBM and their Watson team. They loved it and we partnered with IBM to build it out further. We raised several million dollars in investment, were named a TIME Magazine Best Invention of 2015, spun the company out, and it now has 20 employees. This was 100% conceived within Majestyk by our amazing team.
Thank you Donald for contributing to our country as a business owner and as a Marine. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us. We hope you have a very happy Veterans’ Day!