Tomas will be speaking at Starter Studio’s Founder’s Talk on Monday, March 9 @ 7 p.m. Click here to learn more and attend the talk.
FlexReceipts founder Tomas Diaz always wanted to be an entrepreneur. But Whirlpool kept promoting him. Nine times. In 10 years.
A born salesman, his first big action came at nine, accompanying his dad on a business trip in Spain selling textiles. Diaz wanted to explore, but work came first, and his father said wayfaring had to wait until they sold more inventory.
“I remember approaching a local merchant to buy some stuff, so my dad and I could go sightseeing,” said Diaz. “He bought the entire truckload. My dad loves that story.”
After graduating Rollin’s MBA program, he took a job with the appliance giant in the warranty department but was soon promoted to sales because he “had way too much personality for finance.” Within six months, he sold $1 million in obsolete, discontinued appliances that the company had considered just throwing away and quickly rose the ranks becoming Whirlpool’s youngest national sales director ever at 28, working with partners like Sears, Lowes, Ikea and Best Buy.
“But I had always had a restlessness to do my own thing,” said Diaz.
After the tenth promotion offer to manage the Lowes account, Whirlpool’s largest, the itch became too much, and Tomas left Whirlpool to start the “Dropbox for receipts,” with a high school buddy. After a few months focusing on consumers, they pivoted focus toward the retailer, which had a profound impact.
“The receipt was an area where retailers were losing a lot of opportunity,” says Diaz.
The redirection toward an enriched, interactive receipt where retailers could put actionable coupons and offerings was key. FlexReceipts quadrupled in size, and Diaz has raised over $2 million to date. The near 15 person company now works with clients such as GNC, Rooms2Go and Beats by Dre.
Overnight successes generally take two or three years, and here are three lessons Diaz learned along the way.
It Ain’t All About Raising Money
“At the beginning, we thought raising money to grow was something necessary, but we were wrong. It’s a big distraction. We spent almost a year trying to fund raise, when we should have been building the company. When we refocused on building, we landed our first big client and found important partners we still have today. It was a night and day difference. When you have big clients, and big partners, it’s absolutely much easier to fund raise.”
Focus, Focus, Focus
“When you’re a startup, there are so many shiny objects, investment, acquisition, possible revenue opportunities, but you have to prioritize and have razor sharp focus. We were trying to capture every market, spending time fundraising, and we almost got acquired early on, but we weren’t moving, getting traction. Then we stopped fund raising, we didn’t get acquired, and we changed our focus to specialty retailers, and then it became so much easier to get partners and customers. Shiny objects are a distraction.”
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
“Right after the acquisition didn’t go through, we were fragile. But our rock star team and my co-founder Jay Patel kept us on point, kept us executing, and that was a turning point for the company. Team is everything, and building the right team should be a number one priority.”