Interview with Rochelle Nemrow, founder of FamilyID
Tell Us About Your Journey
My very first job out of college was with a magazine called High Technology Business Magazine that covered the intersection, it was the first magazine to cover the intersection of business and technology. It kind of ages me a little bit, but it was a start-up and I knew I’d found my place in startups. I have been in startups my entire career, except for times when my startup has been acquired and I worked for the acquiring company, but I knew I’d found my home. And I like to say I’m a recidivist entrepreneur because I do think it’s a little bit of a sickness. But my last start-up, Family ID, was when I swore I’d never start. But I found that when I see a problem that I feel like I can solve, it is really tough not to jump in there and solve it. And that’s really been my journey throughout my career.
FamilyID Had A Successful Acquisition – Tell Us About The Experience
It was an incredibly satisfying experience with a lot of mixed emotions. I loved Family ID. It’s a company I’m so proud of; everything that the company was about the culture, the brand, what we did for our customers. And I was one of those incredibly lucky, fortunate people that was excited on Sunday night for Monday morning. I loved being at Family ID.
So the culmination of that experience and an acquisition was really a wonderful exit. It was wonderful for me. It was wonderful for my investors, but it’s also a little bittersweet because Family ID really was my baby, still is my baby, I still have customers who contact me. I’m still in touch with my entire former staff.
So it was an amazing journey. And I think there are few things that are more satisfying than building something that people value where you really feel like you’re helping people. And the part of it that I didn’t necessarily expect was that building a culture where your team and all the people that built Family ID can look back on it and say that it was really enriching and wonderful experience for them. They loved being there. So that’s one of the lessons that I have now position a couple of years post acquisition about what are the things that are really satisfying in the journey.
What’s It Like To Now Be An Angel Investor?
It’s very satisfying. It is a huge learning experience. First of all, if you’ve ever been a founder and you’ve ever raised money from investors, being on the other side of that and being an investor yourself is sort of a piece of the puzzle that you have to do to understand the whole picture. And so for me, it’s really creating a much larger and richer context to understand the whole entrepreneurial experience that I’ve been in for many years.
The part that I really have found that I love is the opportunity I have to coach these CEOs and to get in there and really help them solve their problems, learn from them, listen to them, see all the wonderful things that are happening. That’s the part I love.
So in fact, I’m doing more coaching and advising than I am investing. Typically starting with coaching and advising and then working toward investing. We sort of never stopped learning, keep moving forward. This has been a really important part of my education and I’ve met phenomenal people and I have an opportunity to be involved in all of these businesses that I think are going to be really successful with really brilliant entrepreneurs who are working hard.
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What Are Some Inspirations That Motivate You?
I love being a part of solutions. I’ve actually found right now sort of post-acquisition as I’m exploring what I want to be when I grow up, that I keep jumping into places where I feel like I can help to really understand the nature of a problem or an issue at hand and try to jump in and help and add some value. It’s gotten me involved in all kinds of things, from nonprofits and boards of nonprofits that I love, to working with entrepreneurs, to areas of interest in my town. And it’s really given me an opportunity to spread out and meet and reconnect with a lot of people.
But I like to have that thing that I’m thinking about in the shower. If I don’t have something that’s occupying my mind or something that’s making me go twice as long on my walk than I wanted to go, if I don’t have a problem to solve and think through, then I feel like I’m missing something. So that can take a lot of forms. But that’s really what drives me.
What Advice Can You Offer Other Entrepreneurs?
In my experience I think that it often feels when you’re starting a company like there’s some formula, put the top team together, go raise the money. There’s like a formula for getting it right. And I think that can be deceiving.
At the end of the day, a business is about acquiring customers who pay you money, pay you enough money for your product, and keeping those customers, and growing your business. And while there can be exceptions to that rule, and while, for many companies, raising money is fundamental to the strategy that they need to move forward, for a lot of companies, they often lose focus on making their number one priority delivering a product to customers that they’re willing to pay for and stick around for. And so my advice is don’t feel like you need to, first of all, don’t look at raising money as a measure of your success, because raising money is not a successful business. It’s a successful raise.
Don’t compare yourself to your other entrepreneur friends on LinkedIn and look at how much they raised and think that you’re not successful because they raised more money than you. And really focus on, how do we get the best capital that we can, which is capital that comes from sales to customers that’s repeatable it’s nondilutive, and that actually grows your business. So focusing on that and finding a way to make that the number one thing that you are looking to do actually is the foundation for the other things that are going to grow your business going forward.
What Value Has Gesmer Updegrove Provided FamilyID?
I have started and sold multiple companies and some of the extraordinary value that GesmerUpdegrove has provided is helping me from day one set up the organization in a way that prepares the company to grow and to exit, which is huge. You don’t want to have to go backward and find out that you did something wrong. And then during the process of being acquired, which is really hard, they have led me through that process in a way that I can feel comfortable that I’m making good decisions, that I’ve got smart advice backing me up, and that I’m actually doing this in a way that’s going to work because you’re doing new things all the time that you’ve never done before.
Why Go With Gesmer?
It is really hard to know who your people are, who has your back. It’s a tough road. Whenever people say they want to start a company, I say come on in, the water’s warm. This is something that takes a lot out of you and since you are constantly in a situation where you’re doing new things, by definition, you’re doing new things all the time. You need to know that you’ve got people behind you that you can trust, and trust implicitly.
I would never work with another law firm. There are law firms I think that promote themselves more heavily in the entrepreneurial community. There are names that are perhaps well known, there are promotions that get run for start-ups that then run out and then you’re paying crazy rates for things. At the end of the day, what I look for are, who are my people who are going to stick with me and who are going to view me as really important to them and to me, that’s Gesmer.
Why go with Gesmer? Why not? We found over the last five and a half, six years of working with this firm that, not only are they committed to this smaller company but they’re committed to the success of those companies, and providing the resources that allow us to be successful. Our interactions with the Gesmer team from literally the top of the organization to the bottom of the organization has been invaluable to the company as we’ve grown, navigated, competed, worked through the myriad of issues that arise on kind of a daily basis here. And without their team and their partnership, I just don’t think that our probability of success would have been as high as it was after partnering with them.
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