Picking Dave Hunegnaw’s Brain on Tech Startups

For years, I didn’t know Dave Hunegnaw’s name, but I knew his face. I frequently spotted him in the Short North and downtown, and wondered what he did for a living. (Apparently, I’m not the only one.)

Herewith, the serial entrepreneur and Brooklyn native reveals which venture occupies the majority of his time these days, what taught him about the intricacies of selling a business to a major corporation, and his advice to all those people who tell him they “have an idea…”

Question: So, what is it that you do?

Answer: I get this question often and I think it comes from the number of projects that I move between rather than focusing on one specific business. But to answer the question, I’m an entrepreneur that enjoys the startup world and over the past five-plus years have started websites including GrooveJob.com, a job board for high school and college students, and DOmedia.com, a marketplace for buyer and sellers of out-of-home and alternative advertising.

I also opened Sandbox coworking community in the Short North and am a co-founder of the Wonderland project in the former Wonder Bread building. I also just recently started HeadStartup.com, a website for small business startups, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to identify the right tools and applications to help run their business.

Q: You have quite a bit going on. What keeps you the busiest?

A: I would say that HeadStartup.com has me the busiest lately, as we’ve been working on content creation for the website. In the past six months we’ve completed in-depth, hands-on reviews of hundreds of web-based tools and apps for small business startups, apps to help small business with a variety of tasks, like accounting, billing, contact management, and more. The next step is then to organize and structure the reviews in a way that is easy to search and so they’re never overly technical.

Our goal is to take the six-plus years of reviewing web-based tools and apps for our own startups and placing that institutional knowledge into a searchable database online for entrepreneurs and startup businesses to search and share. In addition to looking back at the tools we’ve used in the past, we are also always on the lookout for the next best app for startups.

Q: Who is the ideal HeadStartup user?

A: We see the ideal user as anyone who is thinking about starting a business and also folks who currently have an existing small business startup, whether the business is online or a brick-and-mortar storefront. We know that any small business startup, whether a graphic designer or a retail store owner, must become a sort of “jack-of-all-trades” managing their day-to-day business. Our goal is to provide them access to great tools and resources to help them focus on what matters mostgrowing their business.

Q: Are you still involved with GrooveJob or DOmedia?

A: No, I actually sold my interest in both companies recently.

With GrooveJob, we were approached by Los Angeles-based Internet Brands which is a Nasdaq-traded company that focuses on specific verticals, including the job board space. That exit, or sale, was an exciting one for us and it gave me my first real “lesson” in the complexities of negotiating the sale of a business to a major corporation.

DOmedia was a bit different. As a co-founder with Jon Myers in the business, we partnered with NCT Ventures, which is a Columbus-based venture capital group for our fundraising. Over time, NCT decided to acquired our interest in the company and installed a management team that brought a deeper understanding of the advertising industry to DOmedia. Great move financially for Jon and me, and an awesome move forward for DOmedia.

Q: Are entrepreneurs born or created?

A: I’ll take the easy way out and go with… Both!

“I have an idea…”

I usually get approached with “I have an idea” right after the “What is is that you do?” question!

If you have an idea, I can’t stress enough the importance of validation of your idea and not just believing your own hyperbole. Deconstruct your idea. Reconstruct it. Share your idea with others and please don’t ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement so they can poke holes in your idea. Get to know how big, or small, the addressable market is. Get to know who else is out there competing in the same space. Identify a monetization strategy. Find customers. Fast. And don’t go for the home run; just build a minimal viable product. And most importantly, be nimble and willing to constantly experiment.