Since launching a startup accelerator in Fayetteville called Hayseed Ventures nine months ago, John James says he’s met with more than 100 companies.
And all of them had the exact same problem: not much in the way of technology resources, customer acquisition strategies or cash.
“There was maybe one that walked in my door that didn’t need help with technology,” James told Whispers. “And when you get beat over the head with something 100 times, you see an opportunity and a need to fill a gap.”
To tackle the most pressing of those three problems — technology — James and lifelong friend and former business partner Jim Kane have co-founded Hayseed’s newest portfolio company, a technology development agency called Gemini Development.
Its focus will be to build software designed to help early-stage companies acquire customers through a minimum viable product (MVP), a growth technique in which a new product or website is developed with just enough features to satisfy initial users. From that point, customer feedback and data would guide further product development.
“Put another way,” James explained in a social media post announcing the company. “We believe in launching fast and iterating. We believe that if you are not slightly embarrassed by the beta version of your product, you didn’t launch it fast enough.”
Of all James’ strengths, his sense of humor ranks near the top.
James also said the difference in Gemini and other development shops will be leveraging his team’s two decades of e-commerce experience.
Kane recently left Acumen Brands/Country Outfitter, the mammoth e-commerce company in Fayetteville, where he was the founding chief technical officer. He launched Acumen Brands’ proprietary e-commerce software in less than 90 days, and under Kane’s oversight, Country Outfitter could support more than 35,000 online shoppers at the same time.
His departure opened the door to reunite with James, who, of course, was the founder of AB/CO, which raised more than $98 million in venture capital.
“Jim is my favorite human ever, and also one of the three most intelligent people I’ve ever met,” James says.
James says he’ll have more announcements in the coming months about his plan to help fill the gap of the customer acquisition and cash issues facing most early-stage companies. Combined, he says they are stalling the growth of the Arkansas startup ecosystem.
“We want to point the cannon at Arkansas first,” he says. “We want to build a really nice company that is influential and game-changing.”
Oh, and the name Gemini? The origin is two-fold. “Jim-and-I.” Get it? Or if you need a less obvious explanation, consider this from the company’s website: The Gemini program served as the minimum viable product for the Apollo space program. In the same way, Gemini creates MVPs for companies to guide their future development.
James said Gemini has been seeded with a “six-figure” investment.