OtherOne-on-One with the CEO: InGrid Solutions’ Jim Cahill

InGrid Solutions is a Portland-based software startup focused on solving the problems that independent contractors such as electricians and HVAC specialists face with paper-driven processes. Part of this fall’s third class of the Portland Seed Fund and an OEN member, we talked with Co-Founder Jim Cahill in our series of one-on-one CEO interviews about the inspiration for the company and Jim’s experience as an entrepreneur.

Tell us about your company – how and when did it start and where are you at today?
InGrid Solutions has created an integrated business management software solution for Specialty Trade Contractors (Non-General Contractors:  Electricians, Plumbers, HVAC, etc…).  We solve the problems that paper-driven processes cause independent contractors.  These are typical SMB’s that don’t have huge budgets for software, but have a need. A SaaS solution like ours has a lower initial price point while delivering an enterprise quality solution.  My technical co-founder, Andrew Ettinger, and I had the idea for InGrid Solutions in 2010, but both continued working our day jobs until the beginning of this year.  It’s been a wild ride but since conceiving the idea for our software, we completed a successful private beta, reworked the entire platform from what we learned in beta, have gone to market, now have paying customers, and just recently signed our first preferred partner.

Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur – did being an entrepreneur find you or did you choose to become one?
Like many people I liked the idea of being my own boss, and from early in my professional career I was looking for an idea that would allow me not only to be my own boss, but to do something interesting and meaningful.  While the desire to be an entrepreneur was always there, I needed to spend time in an industry to understand its needs before I could identify a way to improve them.  After graduating from Oregon after the dot com crash, I ended up spending 10 years in multiple aspects of the HVAC industry from manufacturing, to distributing, to the contractor side of the business before having my “ahh ha!” moment.  It took time to understand the various aspects of this industry and it was only after being on all sides of it that I really understood the needs of the entire ecosystem.  Based on that knowledge, we created an expandable software platform that addresses inefficiencies that exist at each level of this business — from manufacturer, to distributor, to contractor.

How and when did you first learn about OEN?
I was lucky to have been introduced to OEN very shortly after Andrew and I formed InGrid Solutions.  A friend of mine who was a small business owner pointed me towards OEN, and as soon I saw the resources available I began taking advantage of them.

Tell us how your involvement with OEN has helped your company through any or all of the following ways: networking, education, mentoring, local recognition, funding, etc.
OEN has been incredibly helpful to us as we’ve gone from two guys with an idea to a viable growing business within this community.  We have taken advantage of many of OEN’s services from workshops to PubTalks to Roundtable sessions.  The opportunity to meet with other entrepreneurs, investors, and successful business leaders simply helps you raise your game.  We got connected with someone who has become a great mentor and a member of our advisory board through OEN, and more recently got an opportunity to pitch the Portland Seed Fund – which worked out well as we were selected to be members of the 3rd class.

In your view, what are the top 3 ways OEN helps entrepreneurs?
Through workshops, mentorship, and connections through networking that OEN makes possible.

If you had to describe OEN to another entrepreneur, what would you say?
It’s a phenomenal group of individuals looking to help and support entrepreneurs.  The members, sponsors, and the group itself is composed of people who are passionate about entrepreneurs and helping them succeed.  It’s a group anyone with an interest in starting their own business absolutely should be connected with!

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