Member Spotlight: Askia Howell
CEO, Alpha Baller Technologies
Company Website: https://www.alphaballertechnologies.com/
Alpha Baller Technologies consults on, design, and builds enterprise solutions in network engineering and systems integration. Start working with them today to increase productivity and save money by streamlining the connections between people, processes, and technology.
Askia Howell participated in the Founders First CDC Bootcamp and FastPath program.
Please introduce yourself, your business, and the date it was founded.
My name is Askia, the founder of Alpha Baller Technologies, the company was founded in October of 2013.
What inspired you to start your own business?
At the time, in 2013, I was working for a technology company as a systems engineer and collaborated with the sales team. Through this, we were able to generate demand and achieve great success in the marketplace. However, we encountered challenges in implementing our technology in existing customer environments and new customers. This situation led me to the realization that I could establish an integration company to better address these problems. In the summer of 2013, I started planning and talking with others, and eventually founded the company in October of the same year.
How has your identity as a Black business owner impacted your journey so far?
It’s been an interesting journey. One of the things that still surprises me is being one of the first in IT services, especially in California. I initially thought others had already gone down this path. The community’s response has been encouraging, both in Sacramento where I started, the Bay area, and other parts of the central Valley and Southern California. People have been open and accepting, and it’s been a great experience overall.
Can you share any challenges you have faced as a business owner and how you have overcome them?
The biggest challenge was in the beginning, when the community responded better than I expected to my services, especially in the public sector and with medium to larger companies in the Sacramento area. This led to fast growth and an unexpected need for capital, which I had some savings for but not enough to meet the demands of fortune 500 companies, the University of California system, and the State of California. This led to a period of panic, but also to a deeper understanding of funding options at the time in 2014-2015, and how it has evolved in the tech space with organizations like Founders First.
How has participating in Founders First accelerator program helped your business growth?
It’s been a tremendous help, especially in terms of building or, in my case, rebuilding my company. Due to quick growth, I didn’t have many of the foundational pieces such as planning, financial strategy, management, and team building, it all happened organically which had its pros and cons. The Founders First Bootcamp and Fastpath programs have been particularly useful. The Bootcamp helped with foundational areas I was lacking, especially in operations and marketing. The Fastpath program helped with preparing for the next phase of fast growth by providing access to revenue-based financing and other funding options like venture or angel, and building a network with others in similar positions. The Fastpath program is indeed a faster path to growth.
What significant lesson have you learned through your experience with Founders First and how has it impacted the growth of your business, as demonstrated by metrics such as revenue increase?
Revenue-Based Financing wasn’t something I was aware of. It helped me understand that the services we were providing were more project-based, like an hourly service or a fixed price scope of work. To explore and eventually get in place, we started offering different revenue-based annual subscriptions or contracted service options, especially in light of the tech industry’s transition to the cloud and managing services related to security.
What is your fondest memory from your time with Founders First?
At the second or third meeting of the Bootcamp, everyone in the group was present. The atmosphere was more relaxed, as everyone had become more comfortable with each other. The Bootcamp was designed as an extended period of focused and dedicated learning, and it was incredibly immersive. The group was fantastic and the conversations were lively. People were open and willing to share the details of their businesses and this was incredibly valuable. The openness and willingness to share information was a major highlight of the boot camp and was something that the speaker took away a lot from that time period.
Can you offer any advice for other entrepreneurs who are just starting their business journey?
The cash flow is a critical component in a successful business. In my early days, I made the mistake of focusing on identifying the market, finding the right team, and getting the product to market, but without properly figuring out the financing and funding, I couldn’t fully take advantage of the potential growth. The Founders First program helped me understand the different market sizes, like TAM, SOM, and SAM, and the potential for explosive growth if everything goes well. It was an eye-opener to think that a successful business could go from zero to a multi-billion dollar company in less than a year. I think we don’t spend enough time in the early stages of a business, projecting and planning for these potential outcomes.
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