Rising StarOEN Member Spotlight – Cullen King, Co-Founder of Ride with GPS

Ride with GPS was founded by two guys who love writing cool software and riding their bikes: Zack Ham and Cullen King. This is our full(+) time job, and we couldn’t be more excited about how far we’ve come and what the future holds.

Q: What does your business do?
A:  Ride with GPS designs tools to help cyclists plan their rides as well as analyze their performance when they are done.  Additionally, we provide features that let cyclists connect with events, groups, teams and other individual riders.

Q: What problem does it solve?
A:  “I’ve got this bike, now where do I ride it?”  Believe it or not, that’s not a simple question to answer!  Garmin provides the GPS unit that can navigate a planned route, but we are the site where a bike rider plans that route.

Q: How did you come up with this business idea?
A: Zack created a simple prototype mapping site using Google Maps for a class project in 2006 or 2007.  I was looking for a project to learn how to program, so I started playing around and helping out.  We were both interested in the site as a tool to help us map our motorcycle rides, but we eventually realized bike riding was pretty cool.  There was a big hole in the market for cyclists to take the data from their fancy bike GPS units and do stuff with it, so we pivoted and haven’t looked back.

Q: What are your biggest challenges?
A:  Doing the jobs of four people!  Zack and I are the only programmers and the only business guys.  As such, we have to wear many hats.  It’s hard to be productive as a programmer cranking out new features when you have a backlog of bug reports, feature requests and outside partnerships to manage.  Hopefully we can hire on another programmer in February or March to help out.

Q: What are your goals for the company?
A:   We have focused on building a respectable and profitable business.  In regards to exits, Zack and I have always thought that having a sustainable business providing passive revenue would be a great platform to build our next ideas from.  Of course, the right exit might come along and we could take it, but it’s important to have a solid revenue model to make that exit more appealing to both parties.

Q: Do you have any news to share about your company’s evolution, new products or partnerships?
A:  We were very excited to become the exclusive mapping site for the second largest bike event in the country, the Tour de Cure.  They are a charity providing 80+ events across the US, with 65,000+ riders in 2012.  We are providing route map printing for their events, as well as some embedded/interactive features for their event websites for the 2013 rides.  This is a great opportunity to get our site in front of 100k new sets of eyes!

Q: Are you looking for funding?
A:   We are not diverting our attention to seek funding at this time, but we are open to it with the right opportunity.  It’s very tempting to sink a bunch of time into chasing after a $500k seed round, but we are in a rapidly growing (and now crowded) market.  If we divert that attention, we are behind going into the 2013 bike season.

Q: Have you been an entrepreneur before?
A:  Aside from my candy store as a kid, this is my first business!  Same for Zack.

Q: What brought you to OEN?
A:  The opportunity to connect with other local businesses.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?
A:  Everything is against you, and that anything that can go wrong will.  There may be voices in the government that say “We want to encourage small businesses and help them succeed!” but that doesn’t help you when your tax return to the IRS is lost in the mail and you are only alerted two years later with $4k in penalties for failure to file on a return with $0 income.

Q: What has been the best entrepreneurial advice you’ve received?
A:  To build a sustainable, profitable business you have to have the patience to see it out five years.  It’s rare to see a company doing well, especially a bootstrapped company, without a good amount of time and effort behind it.  We registered our company in January 2009, so are coming up on our fourth year.  2012 was our “breakout” year in regards to profitability, so it’s pretty much right on the money.

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