Since 2015 his company SDE is the main partner of Green Light acceleration program and Donnie Goins is a member of the jury at final Startup Show. To get to know more about his interest in startups and what he thinks about projects attending Green Light, we asked him for an interview.
Donnie Goins is co-founder at SDE Software Solutions providing software development services to companies around the world. SDE started in 1995 with a small team and today they are growing rapidly. The company delivers software and hardware products in areas such as security, mobile applications, wireless platforms, 3D augmented reality, cloud and telecommunications. They have labs in Brno and also at the Business Incubator of VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava.
Donnie, besides that you are co-owner at SDE company, you are interested in startups in the Czech Republic…
Yes, we are very interested in startup in the Czech Republic for several reasons. We are looking for startups that: 1) have ideas that could be successful in the US Market , 2) ideas that we would like to provide some initial funding, 3) could potentially partner with SDE in the Czech Republic.
Is that the reason you engage in the Green Light accelerator?
We engage with Green Light to support the acceleration of startups in the Czech Republic. It is a wonderful country that has a lot of really smart people and we want to support the creation of an eco-system that provides the opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch their companies. We would like to provide startups with connections in the USA where applicable.
What kind of startups do you invest in? How do you select them?
We in the USA invest in venture funds and individual startups. Here in the Czech Republic we are looking to make a couple of early seed investments each year in companies that have unique ideas. We select them by looking at the team and the idea they are proposing. It takes a very determined team to create and deliver a new idea to the market place. We prefer to invest in ideas that we feel we can provide connections for them in the USA.
Can you see any difference between Czech and American startup environment and among startups themselves?
Yes, there is a big difference between Czech and American startup environment. The biggest difference is there is a better startup eco-system in the USA. There is more money available for funding and more startups with entrepreneurs that have more experience in working for established companies. The ability to network across a many markets is easier due to the size of the US.
You met the Green Light participants in December. Were you surprised by something this year? Any changes compared to the last year?
I thought some of the ideas and concepts were much more clearly thought out in terms of getting feedback from early potential customers. There has been significant progress as a result of the mentoring through the Green Light opportunity.
Has any of current ideas a chance to succeed in the USA?
Yes, I think there is a couple of ideas that have a chance in the USA. For example, the bike tent idea is one that I believe can be successful in the USA market.
What are the most important requirements to be succesful there?
The most important requirement to be successful in the USA is the ability for the entrepreneurs to take a great idea and quickly build it by working with potential customers. Getting customer feedback early in the process is critical. Finding the first few customers quickly can make all the difference in being successful or failing.
You teach at university . What do you teach and do you advise your students about business?
Yes, I do presentations at NC State University on entrepreneurship. NC State has several programs on entrepreneurship and I speak to those classes during their semesters. I also advise several student startups from NC State.
What about the USA student approach to do their own business? Do they prefer to be employed?
There is a small percentage of students that want to be entrepreneurs as students. We have found that it is best for students to work for a companies for a few years before they start a new company. Creating a new company is very challenging and takes a tremendous amount of dedication. Its best for students to have taken jobs where they can learn some basic fundamental about working as a team member and getting an understanding of what it means to create a product and support customers. There are very rare cases where students have an idea that starts at the university and then becomes a successful startup.
More about Donnie Goins:
His entrepreneurial spirit has allowed him to create or purchase seven companies since 1992.
Donnie has held various senior level positions and he resides on the NC State Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, NC State Jim Hunt Technology Advisory Board and served Eight years on the NC State Engineering Foundation Board. Donnie has an Electrical Engineering Degree from NC State and a MBA from Duke University,
He loves spending time with his wife and daughter, running, cycling and playing golf.