Recently, we sat down with Carl Turner who is the founder of Neighborz (the self-proclaimed Tinder-like app for ordering food) to discuss what it takes to become an entrepreneur in the tech industry. In a time that being an entrepreneur is the cool and trendy thing to do, our conversation with Carl proves that it’s not always as easy or glamorous as Shark Tank makes it look.
Question: Were you first a technologist, who became an entrepreneur or an entrepreneur first, who became a technologist?
Carl: Entrepreneur first. At 3 years old, I started making paintings and selling them for a euro a piece before dinner. Eventually, I graduated to selling ice sculptures, but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit which came from my parents who were both entrepreneurs.
Question: At what moment did you decide to create Neighborz?
Carl: After shadowing four different entrepreneurs in Germany, I spent a summer in Shanghai gathering business ideas. One night, I was lying in bed thinking of delivery services and thought of the idea of creating a peer-to-peer food ordering service within a closed ecosystem for college campuses. After drafting the business plan, I immediately called a friend to share the vision.
Question: How did you go about getting funding?
Carl: At first, I did what I feel like anyone starting a business does: go to family! After that, we started to apply for local grants. Finding investors, and the right investors more specifically, can be not only difficult, but exhausting. It’s important to make as many connections as possible and keep pitching your idea. With each “no” I received, I got better at selling my idea and then would often get referred to other potential investors. For Neighborz, networking at Winston Starts and Flywheel in Winston-Salem, NC was critical to our early successes.
Question: What’s next on the horizon for Neighborz?
Carl: Curbside pick-up is the future of Neighborz. We are about to release this feature with many of our restaurant partners. Think about it, if you’re a working parent that wants to get local, fresh food for your family without having to pay delivery fees or get your kids out of the car, then it’s a game changer. Essentially, we turn any local restaurant into a virtual drive-thru.
Question: For aspiring tech entrepreneurs, what advice would you give them?
Carl: Don’t be afraid to steal great ideas to get inspiration and then adopt and adapt to disrupt the market. Surround yourself with other successful entrepreneurs who will help push you and your business forward, which includes who you partner with. We partnered with Small Footprint, who collaborated with us to prioritize our initial feature sets to create our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Their team of UI/UX, Android, iOS and backend developers were invaluable to building our MVP. When you have a great MVP, your product will do the selling for you.
Above all, you don’t have to be the most charming, just the most genuine and know your business plan and financials through and through. Period.
Carl founded Neighborz in April 2017 during his final semester at Wake Forest University where he graduated with Bachelors in Finance and Computer Science. Within in just one year he started the “tinder for food” and launched the app and service in two cities in North Carolina. He was born and lived most of his life in Berlin, Germany and had the honor to gain experience before Neighborz working with Google, A.T. Kearney and The Boston Consulting Group.
the culture behind the code
Founded in 2003, Small Footprint is a software innovation company. We offer ideation, design, development and managed services to organizations that rely on innovative software to differentiate themselves and improve their businesses. Small Footprint makes custom software easy to manage through client partnerships based on collaboration, transparency and business value generation. We build intuitive software products, integrated enterprise systems and compelling digital experiences. Each of our employees shares the goal of being a part of innovation that impacts people’s lives and invigorates companies.
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