Getting your business funded is an uphill battle. It requires you to be proactive, persistent, and intentional. Josh Melick knows this all too well as the co-founder and CEO of Broadly, a venture-backed technology company that’s raised more than $20M to build the tools that help small businesses better communicate with their customers.
An engineer by trade, Melick has previously been in executive leadership at Intuit and AT&T. Now, he’s applying his knowledge to help small retailers take control of their digital presence to compete side-by-side with big businesses like Amazon and Walmart.
“It’s not that hard for you as a brick-and-mortar retailer to compete with the big guys when you have your customer data,” says Melick. “You can see what they’re interested in buying, when they’re buying it, how often they buy it, and where they’re coming from. Then, if you play smart, you can build a custom experience for them.”
Melick left Intuit in 2010 before the launch of QuickBooks Online, where he was vice president of marketing. He then joined AT&T in 2011 as chief marketing officer for U-verse before ultimately joining venture capital firm Mohr Davidow Ventures to help build its digital retail portfolio.
“I really wanted to get back to working with early-stage companies,” Melick says.
Having worked in both private and public companies, Melick was well-versed in raising capital. He saw how difficult life could be for small businesses with limited resources competing against larger corporations.
“The big guys will do whatever they can to beat you,” he says. “It’s like David and Goliath.”
So he decided to do something about it. In 2013, Melick and his co-founder Lane Livingston launched Broadly with $3 million of their own money. They raised another $4M the following year from investors, including Mohr Davidow Ventures and former eBay president Jeff Skoll’s fund, Capricorn Investment Group. Since then, they’ve raised another $16 million to help small businesses compete.
“We knew that would resonate because there are millions of small retailers out there,” Melick says. “But we didn’t know what they needed or wanted.”
Melick’s expertise and experience are helping Broadly evolve into a data and analytics company that helps its customers — around 300,000 businesses — see what shoppers are doing on their sites, how to optimize transactions, and encourage product purchases.
“You can’t outspend or out-market the big guys,” he says. “If you want to compete with them, you have to do things smarter.”
1) Figure out who your customers are.
2) Become worth working with.
3) Start building right away.
“If you’re planning to start a company, just quit your job and do it,” he says, adding that the hard part is already done once you have an idea in place. “It’s not like there aren’t opportunities out there to fund you. There are tons of them.”
For small businesses, Melick says it’s important to know your customers and their needs. Use that to inform how your product is packaged, marketed, and priced accordingly. It might take longer for a customer to purchase because they’re not used to buying from you or paying what you’re asking, but it will pay off in the long run.
“Many retailers aren’t sure what their product is worth,” Melick says. “What’s the cost of goods? What are you doing to be different? You have to ask yourself, ‘How am I working with my customers?’ If you’re worth working with, people will work with you. Your job is to figure that out.”
For potential entrepreneurs, Melick says that building a business isn’t for everyone. While it might be exciting to launch your own enterprise, you’re essentially putting yourself on the line without any support system in place. If you’re not comfortable with risk, don’t want to take on liabilities, or don’t have the stomach for it, then it’s probably not a good fit.
“If I knew that at 22-years-old, I would have spent six years in school,” he says. “But if you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else with your life, go for it.”