1 Million Cups-Columbus Kickoff: Lessons Learned Building Beam Dental
The inaugural event of 1 Million Cups-Columbus, hosted by Rev1 Ventures was both educational and inspiring.
The featured presenter was Alex Frommeyer, founder and CEO of Beam Dental, a dental and ancillary benefits company that recently closed a $23 million Series C round.
Alex and the Beam Dental team moved to Columbus in 2014 to use technology, data, and the beam® brush (paired via Bluetooth® with the Beam® Brush app) to bring access to dental services and insurance to millions of Americans who don’t have access today.
Alex told the room of Columbus startup community supporters that the road to success has been rough. And, in the true spirit 1 Million Cups, he openly shared what he and the team at Beam have learned in building a high-growth company.
1. Success is not a straight line.
Tough times came for Beam Dental when they had to lay off two-thirds of their employees. Alex said that they hugged the “the remaining eight really tightly” to ensure that those employees who were left could see a path for the company to reach the other side. Beam now has 40+ employees who anticipate serving up to 50,000 members on the company’s platform by year-end.
2. Find investors with a similar vision.
Investor Drive Capital wanted to see an innovative insurance business built in Ohio, and Beam Dental had the vision. Alex and the team moved to Columbus to work side-by-side with the Drive team.
3. Stay focused.
From day one, Alex was guided by the vision of insuring the health equity gap in dental services. He recommends that entrepreneurial teams live by this litmus test for every decision: Does it get us closer to our goal? Will it help us solve the problem in the industry?
4. Immerse yourself in the industry.
Dive deep. Learn what you don’t know. Talk to experts, then become the experts. Create your own core competency. Domain knowledge is readily available if you’re motivated and mission-driven.
5. Be transparent with your team.
Emphasize the risks and opportunities that come with building a startup. Make sure employees are realistic about the career risk. From the beginning, communicate openly and appropriately about what is going on within the company. This builds trust. Be transparent (with respect for employee privacy and corporate confidentiality). When challenges happen, and they will, people will feel connected to the plan and understand.
6. Know your customers and how to reach them.
Beam Dental’s distribution strategy is focused on small businesses. The team has learned that once businesses reach a certain size, both “inertia and interest” develop around benefits, including health care. Beam Dental wants to be connected to their prospects and customers so that they are ready to act at the moment the company starts rethinking and decides to start shopping for different benefit support.
7. Pricing: Avoid the race to the bottom.
Creating a solution that is driven by price is not the way to create a long-term sustainable business and brand. It’s the way to create a low-margin commodity. Differentiate your product. Outstanding support and services are the cornerstones of the Beam Dental business plan.
Like all presenters at 1 Million Cups, Alex was invited to answer this question: What can the Columbus startup community do for Beam Dental?
He stated his “#1 ASK” loud and clear: talent. With growth, Beam Dental is hiring like crazy. The company needs energetic talent across all functions—engineers, sales, and marketing. Alex asked the audience to share the opportunity with the talented people in their networks. (The Rev1 Jobs Board is also a great place for hiring startups to post.)
Anyone who is interested in Columbus’ innovation economy is invited to join us at 1 Million Cups-Columbus’ next event.
1 Million Cups is a free, national grassroots program founded by the Kauffman Foundation to educate, engage, and inspire entrepreneurs around the county. 1MC is run by local volunteers and operates weekly in coffee shops, co-working spaces, and other community locations in 180 communities across 40+ states.
Every Wednesday morning Columbus’ 1MC will be at Rev1 Ventures from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Early-stage companies are encouraged to present their pitch to an audience of mentors, advisors, and other entrepreneurs. Each founder presents for six minutes, followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session with the audience. https://www.1millioncups.com/present
Volunteering for leadership roles in 1 Million Cups-Columbus are: Steve Flaherty, Principal of WENO & Owner of Yumii Kettle Corn · Chad Snow, CEO of Sesame · Taylor Kolon, Owner of Pure Equity Group · Ray Hughes, Principal of WENO & Owner of TradesPro · Heather Harmon, Director, Marketing & Community Outreach at Rev1 Ventures