The following is an interview that Corey and Marty, co-founders of the FixMeStick, conducted as part of the International Startup Festival, hosted in Montreal.
How did you guys come up with the FixMeStick?
We’ve spent our careers in Internet endpoint security, and at our last company we saw every day how malware was consistently beating anti-malware and how it leaves people stranded.
So we heeded the call and lit out to build the FixMeStick. The principles underlying the FixMeStick are tried and true, and are no surprise to anyone in Internet security. The engineering challenge was how to get the principles to work on a mass scale for non-technical consumers.
Early in the first year of our startup journey, we became somewhat disenchanted with the FixMeStick, and tabled the concept for several weeks. We were concerned that as an investment we were too far afield of what was popular (mobile, social, cloud) within the startup and venture-capital community.
During this period we constantly had to explain to friends and family, and other random people we would meet out and about, what we were “starting up.”
So we told our story, reporting on how great startups are and how exciting it was to be in the ideation phase. We would list some of our newest “investment candidates” and also some of the ideas that we had decided NOT to do, including the FixMeStick.
9 times out of 10, if the person was NOT an industry insider, he or she would cut us off with “I love that FixMeStick idea, I need one of those.”
After hearing this response about 30 times we decided to stop our search (and over-analysis), gear-down, and build the FixMeStick. We’ve put everything we’ve got into this product and, as a result, our startup journey filled with blood, sweat and tears has delivered the fun and rewards we originally set out after.
What was your biggest challenge getting started? What advice would you give startups in regards to this challenge?
Our biggest challenge during the first few months was getting ourselves to fall in love with our idea. Some startups have the opposite problem: they are blinded by the love of their own vision. We were blinded by our excessive critical analysis. Although we knew then that startups are messy human affairs not reducible predictive models, we wanted it so badly we tried anyway. Eventually we took the leap of faith that every entrepreneur has to take.
Some games you have to be in before you can figure out how you’re going to play it; we think startups are like that.
What’s it like funding yourselves?
Being bootstrapped on a shoestring budget has saved our hides several times. For example, we’ve made mistakes and realized losses that would have cost us more if we’d had more to lose. A shoestring budget takes the “premature scaling” problem out of the equation by definition.
Do you have any advice for startups seeking to do the same?
Be lucid about your goals, write down the mistake you can afford to make, and share it with the people who depend on you financially. If you get those three things right, then the anxiety level goes down to a nice, highly productive level.
FixMeStick is focused on virus removal; do you find yourselves competing with virus protection software?
We have to lay out the “security = protection + detection + removal” equation for business partners and media. We’re not asked by our customers too often. Our customers don’t really care: they just want the virus gone, and the concept of a separate and clean removal device makes sense to them.
Mac users are increasingly scared of viruses; do you plan on introducing a product that addresses viruses designed for Macs?
We’re going to announce the FixMeStick for Mac beta at this years Startup Festival.
It sounds like anyone with a PC could benefit from FixMeStick, which markets are you specifically targeting and how do you plan on reaching out to them?
Our target customers are over 40 and like their media “old school.” This demographic will buy online, but their awareness and interest is often developed offline in traditional media like television, radio, print, and people.
How do you embody this year’s Startup Festival theme, “startups that matter”?
Consumers will increasingly have to contend with malware on their computing devices.More Internet commerce means more Internet thieves, and Internet thieves have an inherent advantage: they get the first move, which they have consistently used for 20 years to find new ways to compromise other people’s computers.
What are you looking to get out of the Startup Festival (investors, users, customers etc.)?
We would like to hang out in the startup context with old friends and make some new ones, contribute to other peoples’ work where we can, and gain some new ideas and perspectives for our own work.
Where do you see FixMeStick in 3 years?
Essentially every PC in the world is running some form of anti-virus software for protection. We see FixMeStick leading a market that will reach a similar size for virus detection and removal.