National Entrepreneur Day is celebrated on November 17th and celebrates those who have implemented their brilliant minds to better the world as we know it. Entrepreneurs pave the way for the future with their drive to innovate, ability to problem solve, and their bravery to take risks. The entrepreneur spirit takes a special individual and here at OneRail we are inspired everyday by the actions of our very own, Bill Catania.
When did you know that you wanted to take an entrepreneurial path?
“My entrepreneurial traits were cultivated as a child working on a grape farm in rural western New York, something I began doing when I was 8 years old. I watched my dad employ a ferocious work ethic and it enabled us, as a family, to live a very fulfilling life. This was very positive reinforcement for me growing up. My mom instilled in me the belief that if you can think it, you can do it. That there is literally nothing that you can’t do if you put your mind to it. I have lived by this mindset my whole life. If the odds are .001%, then there is a chance, risk has never scared me like it does most people.
My entire term as an undergrad occurred during the .com bubble, a time when venture capital flowed like water and IPO’s were a daily event. I took notice of the digital transformation that was underway and realized that this was the best way to leverage my work ethic, independence, and inventive creativity. I took advantage of several opportunities during college to validate my instincts. I worked for a summer on Capitol hill, which is where I realized I didn’t really want to be a career politician. Next, I worked a summer for a leading Fortune 500 CPG brand – too big. It was after those experiences that I wrote my own business plan for my first start-up, which was funded immediately during my Senior year at Cornell. I never looked back. “
What is the best piece of advice you can give someone who is just starting out?
“If you think you have a great idea, be willing to BREAK it! I’ve had 3 start-ups and all 3 incurred a significant pivot about 18 months in. Each pivot happened because I listened to my early customers, the market, smart investors, advisors, and my gut.
Perhaps the greatest wisdom I’ve head was from Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of KIND bars. He said to be successful you have to be the Creative, the Critic, and the Crusader.
Creative – You have a great idea and you are passionate about it. Develop the solution and see if customers will buy it.
Critic – BREAK IT! Beat it up, test it, be sure you have the product/market fit “right” before you scale it. Don’t drink your own kool aid – thats the most dangerous thing you can do. This is a painful phase because you have to recognize that you baby might be ugly, its your job to make it beautiful again.
Crusader – Once you’ve improved your product as the Critic, then you earn the right to be the crusader. You’ve earned teh right to be a thought leader, you’ve done your 10,000 hours and understand exactly where you add value and the industry you work within recognizes you as a leader and as a disrupter that is here to stay, not just a casual idea or fashionable fad.”
As an entrepreneur, how do you deal with adversity and doubt?
“You don’t get to be a successful entrepreneur unless you can master defeat and disappointment.
Conviction – You have to have 100% conviction for YOU and that you have the guts to withstand adversity, the problem you are solving, or your solution, and for your team. You have to believe in those three things, and if you are fortunate to have investors, you have to have conviction for them too – they can be your greatest resource, not just capital.
Failure is the catalyst for rapid evolution, think Darwin. Break your business, your platform, your model. Get told NO 100 times and if you can survive that, psychologically and financially, you may just be on to something.
The common thread I have found in the success between my 3 start-ups is that I never quit – it was never even an option, not once, and I never once wondered if my business would become mainstream of come to market, only when and how would it evolve to become the “right” product to change the marketplace.”
Bill Catania, founder, and CEO of OneRail has been at the forefront of multiple startups in his 20-year career. First beginning with RaceFan Inc, then M-Dot, and now OneRail.
Race Fan Inc, a “bricks and clicks” model was created in 2001 as Catania was approaching graduation at Cornell. In the fine entrepreneur spirit, Bill who had an amazing and stable job lined up post-grad decided to take the road less traveled. Instead of becoming that “corporate guy” Bill took the approach of creating a business based on his academic studies and his passion for racing. Race Fan went on to become a promotional platform for Valvoline, the US ARMY, and Ford Motor Company to over 650 racetracks in over 40 states.
Bill’s next entrepreneurial milestone was M-dot, a platform created to manage and redeem digital coupons. The idea was sparked as Catania who was working at a Marketing Agency wanted to create a value added, tech driven solution for clients. The creation of M-Dot, originally “M-Shop” was created alongside Kevin Seeker and the agency owner Dan Bensur. The three were able to leverage Bensur’s agency capabilities and knowledge of private label product development, Seeker’s knowledge of mobile telecom experience, and Catania’s business development skills to create the initial model. M-Shop allowed shoppers to purchase prepaid phones from local grocers and access digital coupons and grocery lists. However, the 2008 market crash led the entrepreneurs to a pivot, leading them to the new model, M-Dot. The new model was reinvented with more sizzle, created with a POS-to-cloud transaction engine, allowing consumers to redeem digital paperless coupons. M-Dot went on to win Amazon’s AWS Start-Up Challenge and was acquired by Inmar.
Catania is now paving the way for supply chain logistics. OneRail is a logistics orchestration platform that enables multi-channel fulfillment. The idea of “OneRail” was born as the “amazon effect” and “uber of everything” mindset began to raise consumer expectations. OneRail first began as “ZAPT,” a consumer and commercial facing on-demand, but a pivot occurred moving the focus towards the development of technology for a delivery orchestration platform. Final mile is the future and One Rail’s ability to provide businesses with optimized delivery is the solution.