This is a guest blog post by Aleksander Levental, 27, University of Florida graduate, 3DS alumni and CEO of Feathr, a marketing cloud for the live events industry. This is Part 1 in a 2-part series about Aleks’ experience with 3 Day Startup, from participants to founder to program facilitator. 

In the last year, Feathr has gone from 2 to 11 employees, raised a seed round, and signed a global deal with the largest company in our industry. As CEO, I split my time between, investor relations, HR, dealing with lawyers, travel, and trying to find time to actually work. Getting Feathr to this position, however, has not been a quick or deterministic process.

In the summer of 2011, my Co-Founder Aidan Augustin had come up with an idea for a startup— a mobile app that allowed users to exchange digitized business cards— and committed to trying to make the whole entrepreneurialism thing work. We participated in a Startup Weekend that September with nothing under our belts except for a few pretentious conversations about our “company” and our “product.” While the experience was exciting and motivational – competition always is – we didn’t leave with very much clarity about how to actually transition to running a company. We did get a nice boost to our egos by winning, though. About two months after that first event we learned through the startup community in Gainesville, FL that 3 Day Startup was going to happen here and it sounded like it was much better suited to the needs of a non-stage startup, which is essentially what we were at the time, so we jumped at the chance to participate. In the intervening months, we cycled through company names, org charts, and virtually spent the millions from our certain and impending exit. At 3DS Gainesville 2011, Feathr as a company was born.

As a participant, 3DS was an invaluable experience. There is so much you don’t know you need to know when you’re starting a company if you’ve never done it before: What’s the difference between an LLC and a C Corp.? How do you actually sell someone something? What’s the difference between a customer and user? In the non-competitive environment of 3DS we were able to collaborate with other teams like ours that were just starting out, and flesh out a better idea for our app by speaking with potential customers and experienced mentors. The biggest impact that 3DS had for us was to pull back the curtain and expose, what seems to an outsider, the mysterious process of starting a company— it made everything that we were doing feel real and it reaffirmed for us that we could start and run a company if we actually wanted. Two months after 3DS ended we incorporated Feathr as a Florida C Corp and worked on it between and after classes. That spring Aidan dropped his course load to part-time and in January 2012 we moved into the Florida Innovation Hub, an incubator for Gainesville startups.I followed suit in the Fall.

Check back next week for part 2, From Founder to Facilitator!