Valarie King-Bailey, OnShore Technology Group.

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OnShore Technology Group is a global independent validation and verification (IV&V) firm specializing in the development and delivery of innovative products and services that power lean validation processes. They built an application called ValidationMaster, which helps life sciences companies meet FDA regulatory mandates for computer systems validation. 

CEO Valarie King-Bailey founded the company in 2004. OnShore won $1 million in financing from Founders First after going through our accelerator program. The company has seen exponential growth since then, even reaching the Inc. 5,000 list. 

We caught up with Valarie to get an update on her success and her thoughts on the Founders First experience. 

What was the inspiration for starting up your business as a founder?

The inspiration for starting my business came way back in 2004. I had kind of reached the pinnacle of my career in corporate. I had been a director, I had been a vice president. I’ve been a chief marketing officer. I had gotten into the C-suite and I had an idea about a software application for independent validation and verification, or basically software testing. It was an enterprise application that I thought of during my tenure with Abbott Laboratories. 

At the time when I started OnShore, I had been toying around with this business plan, if you will, that I had been writing in my spare time and I thought 2004 was an excellent opportunity to launch the business. I was leaving the previous company that I was with and I thought no better time like the present to launch the business, so that’s what I did in 2004. 

I had this idea, I had been writing a business plan
and I thought I would just take the leap, and so here I am.

How has your business model been impacted by the Founders’ participation in the accelerator program?

Founders First was an interesting program for me. I was introduced to Founders First in the early part of 2020. At first, I thought it was just going to be a program that was kind of an educational program. I didn’t really realize that the funding would be a reality, and I had been skeptical because I had been in four such programs that claimed to offer capital to small businesses like mine. 

At the time when I met Founders First, I was growing OnShore organically. I had not really taken any funding other than a bank loan for 100K, and that was about maybe 16 years ago. Other than that, I’d really received no financing at all for the business, so everything was organic growth.

Then when I met the people at Founders First and I went through the program, I was blown away at how focused it was and how tactical and strategic the program was. Tactical in the sense that the Founders First coaches got right to the point of what the issues were with respect to OnShore Technology Group, and then strategic because they forced me to look at the business from a strategic perspective. 

Sometimes if you’re like me, you’re running your business every single day, you don’t get a chance to stop and think and smell the roses as such, but Founders really made me think about OnShore strategically as a business. Where did I want to go? Where did I want to take the business? And that was what was so important to me.

Then at the end when we did the pitch to the investors, we did a pitch to a group of real investors. I got a chance, really for the first time in the history of OnShore, to really pitch before an investor group and tell them why I thought I was worthy of receiving funding. 

And lo and behold, I ended up getting the funding, which has really, really been instrumental in our growth in the second half of 2020, and all throughout 2021.

What is your fondest memory of the time you’ve spent with Founders First?

My fondest memory was actually getting the notification that Founders would fund OnShore $1 million. That was the best moment and my most fondest moment when I actually won the investor pitch. I pitched my business along with some other businesses that were just as viable as mine, competitive and all of that, and they said that my business was number one. That was my fondest memory.

How has Founders First helped and what has been the result? 

The result has been phenomenal. First of all, for starters, revenue-based financing wasn’t something that had been on my radar. I had never heard of it before Founders First. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how economic the investment is, how easy it is to manage, but more importantly, how impactful it was. 

We are nearing doubling our revenue since Founders First.
We have improved our cash flow, we have decreased our
expenses over time, we’ve eliminated expenses, and this
is because of the fantastic coaching that I’m
getting from Founders First.

I have also strategically changed a few things in terms of the way the business operates, and that’s one of the biggest benefits besides the financial investment that we got from Founders First. One of the biggest things about their program is the monthly coaching. I have an excellent coach that month on month reviews with me all of the goals and objectives that we set. She holds my feet to the fire in terms of things that I said I was going to do. Did I do them? Did I accomplish them and so forth? 

I found that if you set goals and establish goals for the business, you will start to see the economic impact of actually meeting those goals. We actually set a revenue goal and we set a number of deals goals. Not only has it focused me more on revenue-generating activities, but it’s caused me to actually meet and exceed the goals. I am super, super thrilled about that. 

What I did with the investment is I invested the money in building up a new team. Before Founders First, I was severely short staffed. My resources are not cheap. I hire engineers so they’re not minimum wage employees by any stretch, but I didn’t have enough people to really do the work that we did. 

After Founders First, I was able to hire an expert team. Founders even helped me with recruiting the best talent. Getting the right people onboard with OnShore was super, super huge for us.

That just propelled the business forward. It gave us the resources that we needed to move forward, that in turn helped us to generate more revenue, which we then invested in the business. 

We also made a significant investment in the software that we sell. We built an application called ValidationMaster, which is an enterprise validation management and quality systems for life sciences. This system helps life sciences companies meet FDA regulatory mandates for computer systems validation. It provides a single source of truth for all of their validation assets. 

During this whole COVID period, as many of my life sciences companies are seeking to actually build either PPE for the hospitals and medical doctors, or to make vaccines or other therapies either directly or tangential to COVID-19, our business has seen an explosion in growth, and we were all only able to meet the demand of this growth spurt due to the investment of Founders First.

Has COVID affected your business model? Did you have to pivot?

Yes it did. Life sciences companies’ activities began to explode around the time when COVID hit. Many of my clients, for example Moderna is one of my clients, were trying to bring new COVID therapies to market. In order for them to do that [they needed] validation, which is what we do. It’s a form of software testing, a very special form of software testing specifically guided by FDA regulations. 

Software testing just exploded because of the fact that many companies had to socially distance during due to COVID. Many companies started calling me because our system is a paperless validation system. In other words, it has electronic processes that allows you not only to test in an automated way, but to be able to electronically review and approve validation documents most expeditiously.

Many of the companies were in a race against time to bring new COVID therapies to market, to get their systems validated, to get them online so that they could move their products forward. This caused a tremendous shift in our business. 

In 2020, we had pretty much three times the number of deals that we would typically do in a year. It was absolutely a phenomenal year, so it was almost the opposite of the way the industry was going for many businesses. Our business actually went up when a lot of businesses were actually decreasing activity. I didn’t have to lay off anyone, I didn’t have to shut down anything. We ended up working remotely and that was one of the lessons that we learned during COVID.

We doubled our revenue with respect to our software in 2021 and we expect that to even perhaps triple in 2022, thanks to the investment that Founders First has offered us, and the excellent coaching.

I keep my Founders First binder on my desk because there was so much rich information in the training. Keep in mind I’m someone who started my company 17 years ago and I went through four other programs that claimed to be what Founders First was, before I met the Founders First team. This is by far the best training program for entrepreneurs, period. 

I’m a 17-year-old business, I’ve gone through a number
of programs before. But none delivered like Founders First. 

Number one, Founders was straight to the point, there was no BS. From the first day, from the first session that we sat in, there was rich information from beginning to end, things that I could take away and apply directly to my business.

Number two, during the training session they brought in excellent people who had started companies, who were very successful, who had sold their companies. They had practical, hands-on advice. “Here’s what I did to make it. Here’s what you need to do. Here are the pitfalls that you need to avoid.” You don’t get that kind of ability to sit down with a Steve Jobs-like person, or to sit down with somebody like a Bill Gates-type person. These people were not Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, but they were of that caliber. They were excellent role models who gave you the feedback that you needed to move things forward.

We did practical coaching and role playing sessions. We did a gamification during the training class of how your business decisions really impact the bottom line. Of all of the things that we did, that one was the most fun because we took a hotel example. Now I’m not a hotel person, but we took that business and we said, “What if I were to train people? How would that impact the bottom line? What if I were to add new staff? How would that impact the bottom line? What if I were to make certain moves simultaneously?”

The gamification of business is a very, very big thing. A lot of times as entrepreneurs, when we make decisions, we don’t actually see, real-time necessarily, how those decisions are impacting the bottom line to the business. 

One may think, well, if I bring new people on and train new people, that’s actually going to improve the bottom line, when in some cases, based on other decisions that we made, it actually decreased our bottom line because it added to the overhead, and so on and so forth. Some of this may seem obvious, but play the game and see how it works.

The other thing that they talked about is what you need to do to be able and ready to receive financing. Some businesses are financeable and some of them aren’t, and there are a variety of different reasons why. 

There were so many different things. I could go on and on, but the bottom line to this whole training class is that from beginning to end it was absolutely phenomenal. The bottom line is these guys really got to the point. They didn’t spend a lot of time talking about things that typical entrepreneurs already know if they’ve been in business an hour and a half. They were talking and focused like a laser on each of our businesses.

The Founders First program met me where I was. That’s really a phenomenal thing, when you think of a group like Founders First, putting together a program for businesses that are at all levels. Some businesses were startups, some businesses were established businesses like mine, some businesses were somewhere in between, and they managed to touch all of our businesses and meet us where we were when we came into the program. They provided unique perspectives on each one of our businesses that helped us grow.

Founders First literally made all the difference in the world to my business. After 17 years, we are finally starting to see that hockey stick growth that a lot of other organizations say you can’t achieve. It has been just a phenomenal program. 

What advice would you give to the next up and coming entrepreneur that may join the program someday? What would you like to share with them?

Yes, if you’re an entrepreneur that’s looking for a program that is serious, that’s going to help you grow your business, and if you are serious about growing your business, you need to be in the Founders First program. 

Number one, they do put founders first. You’ll get an education from Founders First that you can’t get anywhere else. You will be introduced to people who have been where you’re trying to go. You will hear from them that the goals and objectives that you have for your company are not out of reach. 

Founders First, they were one of the first groups that believed in me, told me that this is possible, you can actually move this company forward and these things are not outside of your reach. If you are a company that is serious about your business, look at your cash flow, look at where you want to be. Set goals for yourself and join Founders First.

It literally was the best thing that I’ve done over the last 17 years of being in business. Founders First is the best program ever that I’ve been in, like this. For all founders out there, no matter where you are, Founders First will meet you where you are and help you take your business to the next level. 

Since Founders First, I made the Inc. 5,000 list for the first time as one of the fastest-growing companies in America. That would’ve been unheard of. If you had told me at the beginning of 2021 that OnShore Technology Group would’ve been on the Inc. 5,000 list, I would’ve probably just said, “Okay, I’ll have what you’re having.” Never in a million years did I think that. I’ve heard of the Inc. 5,000 list, I’ve read the Inc. 5,000 magazine. As a matter of fact, I had been a subscriber of it. Never in a million years did I think our company would reach the level of growth to be on the Inc. 5,000 list. That only happened after I became a member of the Founders First program.

That’s what Founders First has done for my business. It can do the same for your business. All they need is a serious entrepreneur that’s serious about growing their business, has a passion for their business, and is willing to learn. I’m a lifelong learner and I am a sponge when it comes to Founders First. I’ve learned so much through this program and I wish this for every entrepreneur out there, that they can experience what I’m experiencing. I am having the time of my life now running OnShore Technology Group. This is fun.

I am enjoying every minute of the growth. I’m enjoying helping our customers because that’s what it’s all about for us entrepreneurs—the bottom line is the customers that we’re privileged to serve. I’m grateful that I came across this program, was accepted in this program, and have done well through the program. You too can be on the Inc. 5,000 list. You too can grow your business to the next level. I would strongly recommend you get on their website, learn more about this program. It’s one of the best programs I’ve ever been in. I wish you all the best luck in the world.

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