Meet the President: David Shear – SheerID

1) What do you do, and why do you do it?

We provide instant eligibility verification to power retailers’ specific offers to specific groups like students and military. SheerID’s eligibility verification solutions take what used to be a 24-48 hr process and transform it into a quick inquiry that takes a fraction of a second. We set out to improve the user experience for consumers who truly qualify for special offers so that they don’t have to jump through extra hoops anymore.

2) Where did the idea for SheerID come from?
We initially recognized the problem observing the customer experience of students who were trying to purchase student-priced software online. They literally had to stop the buying process, find a fax machine, fax over credentials, and wait 48 hours for the fax to be reviewed. We realized this wasn’t a problem isolated to students or the software industry, so we decided to start SheerID,

3) What has been your biggest professional challenge to overcome?
Identifying and hiring great people has been a challenge. A tech company is only as good as its employees.

4) What has been your proudest moment in your career so far?
I’m especially proud that SheerID has been able to grow year-over-year while retaining our clients. It makes me very proud that SheerID has virtually zero churn. To me, that says that we’re solving a very real pain point in an elegant way, and we’re providing the level of customer service our clients expect and deserve.

5) If you were starting another company tomorrow, what would be its top three values?

  1. Our employees are passionate about our business
  2. The company strives to help our customers be successful
  3. We deliver cutting edge solutions

6) What is your favorite interview question?
Tell me about a time when you were overly competitive.

7) Who inspires you and why?
My dad. He lives his life with a level of integrity and honesty that makes other people orbit around him.

8) What is your favorite piece of technology or app right now?
It sounds trite, but I probably use Uber more than any other app. The convenience of always having a car available while I travel has been a game changer for me and the rest of our team.

9) Favorite guilty pleasure?
I watch way too much news at night. I don’t really pull for either side politically, so I like to sit back and watch when things get really dramatic.

10 ) Favorite way to spend free time is…
With my sons or outdoors with my girlfriend.

11) Cause closest to your heart?
I’ve spent a lot of time coaching for youth programs. Little things like helping a kid understand how to make a free throw or land a tackle can make a big difference for young people who don’t get a lot of support from the adults in their lives. Just spending time with them can be a big deal.

12) In closing, what advice would you give to budding technology entrepreneurs?
Plan for double the time, triple the cost, and way more stress than you think you’re prepared for, but also expect the journey to be very rewarding. Growing a company is a fantastic experience.

Meet the CEO: Michael Schutzler – WTIA

Michael Schutzler is the CEO of WTIA, the largest technology association in Washington state. Michael brings over 30 years of experience in the technology industry, launching products and building companies as a product manager, co-founder, and angel investor. In 2013, Herd Freed Hartz placed Michael in his current position and we recently caught up with him to learn more about his philosophy as a leader, WTIA’s mission and his work leading this successful organization over the last several years.

1) Tells us a bit about WTIA:
WTIA is the unifying voice of the 10,000 tech companies in WA state. We inform and motivate industry, education, and government leaders to build a better world for all of us. Our programs and services help attract, develop, and retain the most talented and creative entrepreneurs and engineers in the world.

2) What is the pitch on why someone should join WTIA and use your services?
WTIA has served the tech industry for more than 30 years. WTIA is dedicated to help tech companies achieve their goals in every aspect of talent management.
* We recruit hard-to-find talent
* We run the only nationally registered apprenticeship
* We provide a turnkey HR benefits platform for small and mid-sized companies
* We provide peer level introductions and facilitated professional networking in education, government and industry
* We are one of the most influential state advocacy organizations

3) What was it about WTIA that attracted you to join?
The WTIA was at an inflection point in its evolution. The board gave me a very wide mandate – almost a blank slate – to try to reinvent what it means to be a viable trade association in the 21st century. Plus it was a great opportunity to develop public policy chops.

4) What challenges keep you up at night?
Running a non-profit is a lot like running a startup. You are always in fundraising mode and you long for the ability to focus more on building a product or running the business. Non-profits are inherently unstable and must be especially vigilant about their value proposition and delighting those who donate funds. Companies who provide unearned income are just like investors in a for-profit company. It’s a highly leveraged act every day of untenable schedule requirements and far more demand for our effort than we have supply of staffing. Without strong partners and delighted donors, we are dead.

5) What are you most proud of at WTIA?
We have built a really smart, engaged board of industry, education, and government leaders. We have built a really smart, skilled, loyal team of execs and staff. And we are getting a lot of good work done that delights those whom we serve.

6) What makes a good CEO?
Actively listening in the present, compelling storytelling about the future, skillfully negotiating in multiple dimensions, and always attracting talent. The greatest of these is attracting talent. A CEO working alone is delusion. No CEO can get anything valuable done without the help of others who are smarter, stronger, more skilled, or more experienced.

7) What experiences have best prepared you for this role?
Trying. Failing. Getting up and not making that same mistake again. Over and over and over. I did that as an athlete in high school and college. I’ve done that as an engineer on a workbench in a lab. As a salesperson dialing for dollars. As an entrepreneur raising money or building new products. And most recently acting like an overly eager labrador puppy in a public policy china shop, having to ask forgiveness more than once, learning from those mistakes, and building credibility anyway on principled integrity and genuine intent to serve.

8) Who are your influencers?
My first hero as a human and leadership archetype is Mahatma Gandhi. He’s my go-to role model. My dad was an entrepreneur (he was a cofounder of Mapquest after some other less successful efforts earlier in life) so I have the DNA and also had a professional role model since birth. My mom taught me the love of cooking and the joy of experimenting with flavors, intentionally reinventing recipes to see what might happen and celebrating failures as more entertaining and inspiring parts of success. My wife, who taught my kids (and me…) that every person has value to offer, even those few people we don’t like very much.