For Trellus co-founder Adam Haber, there’s nothing more rewarding than trying to start a business. There’s also nothing quite like lying awake at night, staring up at the ceiling, and thinking, “What the heck did I do?” Despite the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life, Haber finds it’s a risk worth taking, and he’s recently taken the plunge with his own startup, Trellus same-day delivery and local marketplace designed for small businesses.
Haber is well-versed in risk-reward dynamics, having spent more than two decades as a commodity options trader on Wall Street, “where they used to yell, scream, and spit on each other,” he describes. Channeling his entrepreneurial spirit, he gravitated towards the riskier investments vs. comparatively “boring” stocks and bonds. He was drawn to venture investing, citing his fascination with all the different ways people make a living.
Eventually Haber became an entrepreneur himself, creating jobs, attracting capital, and managing complex budgets. He has owned three restaurants and is a non-operating principal of a Portland, Oregon based commercial real estate merchant bank. He’s a member of the Long Island Angel Network, and has sat on the boards of several startups. He’s also brought his entrepreneurial insights into public service, having served as a Roslyn School Board Trustee and helping to bring the school district back from the brink of financial ruin after a scandal. And he initiated Project Long Island to repair more than 200 damaged homes in Long Beach through All Hands and Hearts, a disaster relief organization where he is currently a board member.
Haber’s passion for serving local communities in Nassau County combined with his interest in small businesses eventually culminated in his idea for Trellus same-day delivery and local marketplace. He discussed Trellus in a recent interview with Hall T. Martin, the director of Investor Connect, a nonprofit dedicated to the education of investors in early-stage funding.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Adam Haber: Through many painful bad investments, we’ve learned that the number one, two, and three things you want is the operator. You want to have somebody that you know is going to have skin in the game, who’s going to be extremely hardworking, and who makes this their only job. …You want someone who is honest, hardworking, knows the industry, and will put their full effort in…
So the thing we all look for is the operator, and a lot of times the first business they’re in isn’t the business that works out. They figure out through trial and error that there might be another aspect of that same business that works. But as long as they have good people, I have no problem taking risks and losing money.
Adam Haber: The biggest challenge I face with my business Trellus right now is getting customers that I’m trying to sign up to change the way they’ve always done things. Trellus is designed for small businesses, and we don’t do food delivery. We deliver toys, hardware, flowers, liquor, and more, same-day within a couple of hours. A lot of the smaller entrepreneurs don’t even have websites. They’ve always done it this way, and they’re afraid to change. Amazon is coming in and eating their lunch.
The challenge we have, and why I think there’s a barrier to entry in this particular segment, is that a small florist on the corner of Main in downtown Smallville doesn’t like the internet. They like to know their customers, they want them to come in to shop and buy something. But that’s just not how the world works anymore. So we focus a lot of our time on education, and we see once we get one or two businesses in a downtown Chamber of Commerce to sign up for Trellus, we get many more.
Haber: I’m putting in a tremendous amount of time, effort, and energy into Trellus, and I’m excited to see the business grow in referrals. I’m helping small businesses compete against big-box stores and seeing satisfied customers who are happy they got their products quickly. It’s extremely rewarding.
Trellus is creating a local marketplace that does same-day delivery. We’re not just a same-day delivery service, and we believe we’re going to have thousands of vendors on our platform. We have about 100 now, but we will have thousands of vendors there in the next year or two. There are tons of services small businesses need, such as credit card processing, cloud storage, or web services that they don’t have access to. With economies of scale, we could provide a suite of services for these businesses, and we think this model is different and exciting.
Haber: Spend as little as possible developing the product and make sure that there’s a market for it. Get feedback, not just from your closest friends who love you and will tell you it’s great no matter what. Get at least 100 interviews or feedback from people whom you’ve never met, especially those people who think they know more than you, who have experience in a certain field.
You want to hear what’s bad about the product, not just what’s good, because you already know what’s good. You want to see what’s the worst-case scenario if this doesn’t work. The good thing is you’ll spend time working on it, but you don’t have to focus on perfecting your model. Focus on getting a decent model, getting out there, and raising the capital to bring it to market, and then the market will tell you what is really needed. From experience, that’s the best way to lower your failure rate and increase your success rate.
Haber: If you’re on the fence about starting your own business and you’re afraid, there’s nothing worse than in my mind laying on your deathbed — hopefully many years from now — looking back at your life and saying you didn’t take that chance. You want to leave no stone unturned. If there’s something that you think will work, it’s better to have tried and failed than never to have tried it at all…
If you want to lead a meaningful life and you have that drive in spirit and personality, and can make mistakes quickly and learn from them, there’s nothing more rewarding than trying to start a business. You’ll lie awake some nights staring at the ceiling, saying, “What the heck did I do?” It has ups and downs. But as far as doing things that you think you’ll be proud of in your final days, this is one of them.
Haber: If you want to reach out, I love mentoring people and talking to them about their ideas, giving them feedback, and sharing with my network. You could email me at email@example.com. …I’m very big at communication, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!