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Founder Friday: Alex Bass, CyberBytes

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I think we’d all agree that there are never enough hours in the day to get things done – from work to errands to exercise and spending time with our families, we are always on-the-go. There are so many tools out there that claim to automate tasks and save you time, but how often do you find that those tools actually create more work for you?

Alex Bass realized that despite many companies’ efforts to automate processes and be more efficient, they were still relying on their employees to accomplish basic tasks. So, he decided to partner up with the top-rated CRM for Google’s suite of products and make automation software that actually automates work.

Learn more about his startup, CyberBytes, and how setbacks or failures can ultimately set your business up for success in today’s Founder Friday!

How did your startup, well, start up?

I started CyberBytes Inc. my freshman year of college while I was doing web development and online marketing for my step-dad’s construction company. It was working well for his small business, so it seemed that I could offer the same service to others. Getting new clients was incredibly difficult because there was so much competition, and it was difficult coming up with a unique value proposition. I just wanted to build websites because I really enjoyed the artisan side to web development. After a couple years of struggling while also going to school, I pivoted the business toward IT support services after seeing a recurring theme with the few existing clients I had – they often had little to no technical support assistance.

I was seeing that the CEO of the business was fixing basic computer problems, and everyone within the company was going to the owner with their technical issues. To me, this just seemed like a massive inefficiency. This allowed me to get heavily involved with companies to the point of seeing all of their internal processes and documenting their IT infrastructure. The more inefficiencies I saw, the more I looked for software solutions to solve these business problems. I would then go to the business owners, who I had built up trust with and made the software recommendations. I would just repeat this cycle for the few clients I had until I knew for certain that I was onto something.

When I first started, it was slow, painful, and I was making no money. As demoralizing as that was, what it did allow for was to get me close to these businesses and learn what a business saw as truly valuable and how I could position my services to be more valuable. It took me 5 years, most of which I was making on average less than $15,000 per year, before I finally found where I could be offering significant value to companies. Now 8 years later, my business has been growing exponentially and I absolutely love what I am doing. I know for certain that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t go through all of the hurdles along the way.

What do you do? Your startup?

We are the preferred consulting partner for ProsperWorks. We help companies run more efficiently by implementing integration software and automations for ProsperWorks – the #1 recommended CRM for G Suite.

We help evaluate existing business processes for sales/operations/marketing and general business workflows to help develop a software suite that helps a business run more efficiently.

When was the ‘aha’ moment for your startup when you realized this could actually work?

The day that one of my clients came up to me and said something along the lines of: “I shouldn’t be saying this because you’ll likely just raise your prices, but I just can’t keep it in anymore. Due to the automation that you have put into place, even just looking at the proposal software and CRM, I no longer need to hire an administrative assistant. You just saved me $40,000/yr. on salary. Not to mention, at this point compared to last year, we have spent $20,000 less on advertising and our revenue has actually increased. We are closing more with less and your services have paid for themselves.”

What has been the biggest accomplishment for your startup to-date?

One of our biggest accomplishments has been our unique partnership and relationship with ProsperWorks. We were one of the first companies to partner with them, and I have done everything in my power to make myself well-known throughout their company – being incredibly active within their community, giving feedback, selling clients, and building individual relationships with many of their employees. I am told constantly that my name is thrown around internally and many of the employees would do anything to help us out. It makes me excited for the future and what this unique relationship will allow us to do.

Goals for the next year? Three years?

Now that I have a solid client base and service offering, I am looking to grow my business significantly over the coming years. I want to hire a couple employees within the next year to start delegating some of my workload and focus on building out more processes and systems for our clients. I am doubling down on my business podcast, Analysis Paralysis, and looking to try and get the CEO/Founder of ProsperWorks, Jon Lee, on it within the next year.

Over the next 3 years, I am hoping to further our partnerships and grow with ProsperWorks to be their #1 consulting partner.

Why Buffalo?

I was born and raised here and all of my family is here. We now live in such a remote and global economy that it matters less and less where you are located to become successful. Most of my clients are on the West Coast, and we live in a world where there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s incredible. It also gives me an awesome arbitrage opportunity because the cost of living is significantly cheaper here than the high-tech cities.

The community here is also a bit smaller, which is nice. You stand out more. If I were to go to San Fransisco, I would just be another of many. But in Buffalo, you can actually stand out and people really do want to help here.

How do you do it? What drives you?

I love working with new businesses and learning the ins-and-outs of new industry verticals – seeing how processes and systems differ from company to company and how much overlap there is between different companies. Then getting to stay on the cutting-edge, researching new software to see where we can leverage it internally and with new and existing clients is a blast.

At the end of the day, I simply love the industry that I am in and the types of clients we get to work with. When working with business owners in the SMB space, there is a real difference we get to make that directly affects their entire team. Time and time again we have worked with companies who can’t decide between scaling their business or continuing to run it with their small team as more of a lifestyle business. Knowing that the software tools and processes we help put into place end up pushing them to grow and get outside of the constraining box that they put themselves in is incredibly rewarding.

What I have learned is that a business owner may be happy with where things are at, but it’s tough to keep employees around and motivated if your company begins to stagnate on growth. This has been a driving force that I have learned through my many mentors and clients and I think about it whenever I, myself, get inside of that same constraining box.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Just get started. It doesn’t matter if you know exactly what you want to do because more than likely, the business you start today is not going to look at all like what it ends up becoming 5 years from now. Get a few clients and pay attention to them. Supplying your clients with the most amount of value possible should be your North Star. Only when you focus on value will you be able to move outside of the “hourly-based pricing” model and into “value-based pricing.” Hourly-based businesses are incredibly difficult to scale; you very quickly run out of time and a client that looks at you as an hourly expense is an inverse relationship. You should strive to make your clients view you as a value investment.

If you don’t have an idea for a business or don’t know where to get started, find a piece of business software that you enjoy using and become efficient with it. Learn it inside-and-out and obsess over it. Whether that be a project management solution, CRM, communication software, whatever sparks your interest. The best software to focus on is one that serves the SMB market really well because the small business space will likely be where your client-base will reside when first starting out.

Build relationships with people inside of the software company and try to partner up with them. If they have a community forum, make yourself known. Ask questions, engage with people. If you show a company that you know their software exceptionally well, they will eventually refer clients to you. Software companies are product-based; they do not aspire to be a service-based consulting company and they need partner companies like that to scale. It is an incredibly easy way to get your foot in the door with new clients. Not to mention, your target market is now focused, so you know that your ideal customer is an SMB using X software.

At the end of the day, just get started and don’t be afraid to fail. The amount you can learn from business failures is invaluable. Just make sure you learn from it. There’s something about going through the grind and struggling that will make you a better business owner and entrepreneur. When you fail, you pivot and will come out with something even better. I have pivoted my company 4 times now and really consider my business having “failed” each time. It’s the same company name, but that’s about the only thing that is the same about my business since starting it. There are still a lot of failures ahead, and I’m excited for them because failure is growth. Don’t let that stop you from ever getting started.


Tags: Founder Friday, startups

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