Startup Sales: Give it away

(Guest post by Kirk Hasenzahl.) There are a number of tremendous ideas and new startups in the Silicon Prairie these days. It is an exciting time to be a startup around here. In all my worldly travels as a startup founder (2 years worth), it amazes me that many of the most incredible ideas I…

Founder Friday is a weekly guest post written by a founder who is based in or hails from the Silicon Prairie. Each month, a topic relevant to startups is presented and founders share lessons learned or best practices utilized on that topic. February’s topic is sales.

About the author: Kirk Hasenzahl is the co-founder of RareWire.


There are a number of tremendous ideas and new startups in the Silicon Prairie these days. It is an exciting time to be a startup around here. In all my worldly travels as a startup founder (2 years worth), it amazes me that many of the most incredible ideas I hear consistently are missing a key part to the solution: sales.

The goal, I believe, is that at some point you do this to generate cash flow. Right? Or am I missing something? Even if you start a non-profit; money creates jobs, growth, and helps the company accomplish whatever it is you set out to accomplish. I guess you can go raise money and do it that way, but that ends at some point, where you need to eventually sell something and generate that cash flow on your own.

So you have this great idea. Now, you got to get it to market and sell it. How do you do that?

My answer: Don’t be afraid to give it away.

Let me explain.

There are a number of business models today that you can debate as long as you want. One of them is give it away for free, grow to millions of users, and then figure out how to make revenue or sell the company. It is hard, it is a long shot, but it can work.

I don’t like that one. I am more old-school. My thought from the beginning always was, “Can we sell this?” So we built it out to be a minimally viable product, and then tried to sell it. We succeeded. Our first client ever was The Atlantic Magazine. Our company is off and running. We quit our jobs and opened an office. Incredible, right?

My first proposal to them was $100,000. After negotiations, the final contract – $0.

That is right. I am the greatest negotiator ever!

In reality, it was a huge opportunity for us to land them as our first client. And when we realized that a company as recognizable as that would use our technology, we knew we had something and that it would snowball into other opportunities. So we wanted that client in a bad way, regardless of the cost.

It worked. As soon as that deal was done, you know what I did next, right? I called everyone I could think of and told them we were building The Atlantic App! Instant credibility. Couldn’t keep up with all the new opportunities coming our way. It was crazy. That deal we did was the most lucrative thing we have ever done. Not only did it turn into many other call-in leads, referrals and many other big deals, but the Atlantic themselves have had us do much more work for them that has been a tremendous success, won us industry awards, and got us national and international attention.

That attitude has only grown at our company. We recognized early on that our best shot at succeeding was through networking, getting heavily involved in our community, and making happy clients that would spread the word regardless of the financial aspect early on.

No one had heard of “RareWire.” So we went to every event we could find relating to technology and startups (some better than others). One example: we stumbled upon and actually presented at the first ever 1 Million Cups event at Kauffman Foundation, which is now becoming a national phenomenon. We are very proud of that claim of being the first.

So how do you do it? How do you jump start your sales at your new startup? Our simple answer, get out in your community and be that good person/company first. Help out others genuinely, expecting nothing in return. We have had a few chances to help out in the community by providing our services of building apps, whether it was for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (labor of love), Middle of the Map Fest, CityAge Conference, or others. None were any financial windfalls by any means. But it gave us an opportunity to give back, do cool things in our community, and I can tell you first hand that the good karma has paid off from those efforts 100-fold.

Kansas City is on fire right now. And the attitude is the same from the biggest companies like Black & Veatch and Sprint, to the KC EDC, all the way down to guys like Local Ruckus, who helped create the new Startup Village in KC (which is crazy and if you haven’t read about it, you should). Across the board, that attitude relating to entrepreneurship is “let’s do it” and “how can we help?”.

RareWire has received an invaluable amount of support, guidance, criticism, feedback, overall advice, and new business from a variety of different sources in our community, from The Mayor of KC down to the local barista at Mildred’s (a central hub of entrepreneurship and good coffee, smack dab in the middle of The Crossroads District), whether either of them actually knew they were providing help or not. All that input has helped us get to where we are today. The thing that is true about all of them; they are genuinely good people that truly have our best interest at hand. That is who you want to surround yourself with.

Now more than ever there are invaluable resources to help a new business get off the ground in the Silicon Prairie. Use them. Don’t count on them to magically make your business succeed, but use them. In our local KC market, organizations like the Kauffman Foundation, KCnext, KC EDC, etc. help entrepreneurs find new ways to succeed in Kansas City and the Midwest through various networking opportunities and resources they can provide. It is what they were meant to do. Take advantage of it.

You still have to have a good idea for your startup company. If you do, I can tell you first hand that there are a lot of good people out there, with that good Midwestern attitude that genuinely like helping others. Building connections and bonding with others in the Silicon Prairie creates a strong sense of community and will absolutely pay off. And a great way to jump start your sales efforts is find that key client, and do whatever you can to get them using your product and make them happy, regardless of the financial benefit.

And if you want to come to KC, give me a call and I will hook you up with everyone I know that can help.


Credits: Kirk Hasenzahl photo courtesy of Hasenzahl.

About the Author: Kirk Hasenzahl is the co-founder and CEO of RareWire. RareWire has created a new, industry-changing SaaS platform for developing native apps for tablets, phones and other mobile devices. Previously, Hasenzahl was the vice president of sales and business development at Saepio Technologies, a marketing technology company in Kansas City, for 8 years and was vice president at Tekno Capital Ventures in Denver, where he managed a team of 15 brokers who raised money for technology startups in the dot-com boom of the ’90s for 10 years. And prior to that, he had the greatest job of all time, as a pitcher in the Minor Leagues for the Cleveland Indians.

Find Hasenzahl on Twitter, @Hasenzahl.


Founder Friday is brought to you by the Iowa Economic Development Authority

Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) is dedicated to supporting innovation by connecting entrepreneurs with resources and development opportunities in Iowa. It salutes the founders of today and tomorrow; encouraging ideas that will invigorate a new economy. Please visit for more information on how IEDA can help your business ideas come to life.

This story is part of the AIM Archive

This story is part of the AIM Institute Archive on Silicon Prairie News. AIM gifted SPN to the Nebraska Journalism Trust in January 2023. Learn more about SPN’s origin »

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