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NOEW: Up Close And Personal With Staacy Cannon, Founder Of Grok + Banter


Staacy Cannon (Photo provided by: The Distillery)

In spite of being deep in the development of Grok + Banter, a B2B software/hardware platform, Staacy Cannon, shows up. Whether she’s judging Start-Up weekend pitches or attending a happy hour hosted by fellow entrepreneurs, she shows up for New Orleans’ startup community.

She has a genuine interest in engaging with others, which is the same “human component” that Grok + Banter is based on. Cannon says the platform “measures engagement in a non-invasive way.”

She’s been through one failed concept, gone back to the drawing board, had an “Ah-ha!” moment, built a successful beta, and put together a small team over time. And she’s been honest about what it has taken to get there. She doesn’t sugarcoat the struggle, but she does wear it lightly. And she doesn’t dwell on the downside of challenges, either.

2016 might be the year that Grok + Banter will break through the final hurdles of development and testing of its product. One thing is for sure: Ask Cannon to show up and she will be there to cheer you on and encourage you to keep going, even if you have to sell your car and wear out your jeans to get there. She knows. She did it.

Staacy took some time out to talk to us about her experience as an entrepreneur. She’ll be showing up for the startup community next week. Meet her and mingle with other entrepreneurs at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.


Can you tell me about your lowest, darkest point as an entrepreneur? A moment (or moments) when you thought, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this?”

I’ve had some dark moments, but I’ve never questioned why I’m building Grok + Banter–that has always been really clear to me. I’ve been building G+B for three years, and in that time, I’ve gone from a full time parent to a weekend parent, supported my oldest child in moving half way across the country, moved twice and held my father’s hand minutes before he went under for an emergency quadruple bypass. These moments deepened my commitment to this journey.

How did you get through that moment?

Blood, sweat, and tears. And learning how to compartmentalize. Getting through those moments did not feel like a choice–they were necessary.

Why did you start Grok +Banter?

I started Grok + Banter because I believe in the power of transparency.​

What is your biggest struggle as an entrepreneur?

​Do I have to pick one? Ultimately, it’s staying connected to other entrepreneurs. Knowing that I’m not the only one out there effing up is comforting, and having others to bounce ideas off of is refreshing, but there is nothing like having a friend and fellow entrepreneur show up with a box of tissues, because she knows it’s time to deal with personal life so that it doesn’t impact business.

In your experience, what would you consider (if any) a failure you’ve had as an entrepreneur?

I guess it depends on how you define failure. It seems like, these days, the buzz around it creates relativity. Getting overly excited about my initial concept and hiring a development shop was something I view as a failure. The experience was invaluable (as is every failure) but if there is one failure that I can lay out there for others to learn from, it’s that. I was compulsive. I had an idea and I wanted it built. I farmed it out to the development shop, it cost a lot of money and in the end, and when the betas proved unsuccessful, I was faced with pulling the plug or bleeding out. I pulled the plug, and with that I lost my rent-a-team and ultimately the product. There were a handful of takeaways from that experience; the one I gleaned the most from was the importance of building a team.

Why do you keep pushing forward even after failures?

To me, failure is giving up and sometimes it’s necessary. Looking at the problem from a different angle was the other option.

What motivates you to wake up each morning and do the work you do?

​My job. I love being challenged so much that my brain hurts every day. I feel a deep sense of commitment to show up for those that have invested time, energy and finances into Grok + Banter, ​and I really enjoy working with our team, our advisors and our customers. It’s fun, exciting, scary, frustrating, tedious, and can be heartbreaking–why would I miss that?!

What is the biggest misconception about being an entrepreneur?
​The idea that being an entrepreneur is glamorous strikes me as odd. There is a lot of hype and misconception around getting funded, like it’s a badge or a reward and if/when a founder receives it, they take a private jet to a private island. It sounds silly, right!? The thing is, entrepreneurs–even the Richard Bransons of the world–work their asses off because they have a very clear vision of what is possible and how to make that happen. Plans don’t always work out perfectly. Sometimes things get messy, and forfeiting the finer things in life is necessary to continue moving forward. I’ve had to sell both of my cars over the last three years, one for more capital, the other to lower my monthly burn. I’m down to two pairs of jeans because the others have been so worn there are holes on the seat. I only buy groceries every other weekend when my youngest child is in town. Eating out is something that is saved for time with customers, and extras like holiday gifts for nieces and nephews are not an option. Grok + Banter, not me, has received initial seed investment. Moving away from “bootstrapping” to being responsible for multiplying others funds adds an entirely new compounded sense of responsibility. ​

Many entrepreneurs start their own companies because they want to solve a problem or see something done differently. Is there something that you want to change in the world as an entrepreneur?

I think that there is freedom in transparency.

What do you enjoy the most about being an entrepreneur?

The rawness of it all. It’s real and there is no way to avoid that. ​

What practical advice would you give to someone who was thinking about starting their own company? No fluff. Real stuff. What’s something you wish someone had told you before you started Grok + Banter?

Figure out a way to test your idea without spending any money. There is a way to do it, and if it’s a good idea, you can capitalize on what you think is a shoddy, poorly executed version of what you envision the end product to be.​

What’s in your bag right now?

Starburst, an external hard drive, my mail, a FedEx envelope that I have to send out, and headphones.

What do you do to fight stress?

Yoga and running. I practice alone. I taught yoga for years. My favorite teacher in town is Lauren Darnell.

What’s your worst habit?

Candy. I’m a candy junkie. I love Hot Tamales and Starburst.

What would you be in another life?

I would live out in the country and have a farm with a woodworking studio, and I would build furniture.

What’s your spirit animal?

A lion, because it’s the king of the jungle.

This article originally was posted on The Distillery, a NolaVie content partner.


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