Welcome to the Stage: Chandler Malone

Founder and CEO of Ideate and Venture Partner at Atento Capital.

About Chandler Malone: Chandler is an entrepreneur at heart whose professional experience has taken him to St.Louis, London, Atlanta, and now Tulsa. Before founding Ideate, Chandler previously co-founded Pyramid Productions (Exited), The Moves (Exited to Wright Enterprises), and served as an investor at Iselect Fund, Six-Thirty Ventures, and Atento Capital. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Chandler is a graduate of Washington University in St.Louis with a degree in American Culture Studies. He currently resides in Tulsa with his wonderful wife, Sahee.

About Ideate: By 2030 the United States is projected to have a talent shortage of 85 million workers that will be necessary to support the growth of its technology sector. Ideate is here to bridge this gap by providing access to the necessary credentials for individuals to get jobs in the tech industry. Thus allowing them to ultimately gaining access to economic mobility and the American Dream, while helping technology companies address the ever-widening talent gap in the process.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with Chandler as both an investor and colleague during my time at Atento Capital. Chandler is an incredible founder with an unmatched passion for his mission. His insight, advice, and guidance has been tremendously helpful to me as I’ve learned to navigate the world of venture. Chandler brings a unique perspective to the world of tech entrepreneurship having been both a founder and investor. I couldn’t be more excited to share this interview with you all!

I’d like to welcome to the stage my good friend, Chandler Malone!

1. What was the inspiration for founding Ideate? Why build Ideate in Tulsa?

My own experiences as a young person trying to make his way in the tech world without much of a roadmap or community to tap into was definitely one large impetus to build the company. My time in Tulsa has also been an inspiration as I have seen how difficult it can be for tech companies to source quality and diverse talent. Finally, seeing the economic opportunity that nontraditional programs such as bootcamps offer to individuals, I couldn't help but be inspired to build something to further assist in their career journey.

Tulsa has been an incredibly unique experience. The connectivity of the tech ecosystem helped us land our first partners (nationally and internationally significant companies) here in our backyard. The support we've gotten from the community has led to introductions to key team members and great investors as well. I think founders would be hard pressed to find an ecosystem that is small enough to care so much and support its startups in such a hands-on manner, while still having access to an abundance of world class partners and value-added capital.

2. This is your third startup that you've founded. How have you evolved as a founder personally and professionally since the first company you founded?

It's been enormous. My first company was more fun than business and I treated it that way. I also did not fully understand the value of having an incredibly strong team to work with and took this for granted a bit. 

My lack of emphasis on the value of having a strong team bled into my second venture and is honestly what forced us to sell the company prematurely. In that business I also was not nearly process oriented enough and didn't focus enough on hiring for my weaknesses. My leadership style and capacity was also not where it needed to be to build a fast moving, high functioning organization.

In my current venture, I've definitely tried to take all of these lessons into account. I've learned that more experience isn't always better and "inflated titles often lead to bruised ego's and unmet expectations". I've also gotten a lot better at staying level in the face of the inevitable ups and downs that come with building a startup. That has definitely rubbed off on the team as well and can be seen by the way we have emerged from adversity thus far.

3. Hiring the right people at the earliest stages of your business is a critical if not most critical component to a company's success. What's been your approach to identifying and hiring talent?

We have definitely made our fair share of mistakes here but I'm grateful to have had the learning experience. Our most valued traits at this point are drive and commitment to the mission. Obviously we aren't ignoring skills, but we've found that mindset is the greatest indicator of success. We love individuals who have personally experienced the problems we are setting out to solve or have domain expertise as these people often have unique and actionable insights. We've also begun engaging talent in short term contract work before making full time hires as a final layer of vetting before making a long-term commitment. 

4. What excites you most about the market that Ideate will be operating in?

We are connecting tech companies to emerging talent. There is projected to be an over 85 million person talent shortage in the tech industry by 2030. If we're able to stay around that long, such a massive gap ensures demand for our product.
Outside of the macro conditions that make for an incredible business opportunity, we will be helping many of our users secure their first job in tech. To play such a meaningful role in someone's life is an incredible privilege and is a testament to technology's ability to create massive impact for good when built deliberately.

5. What advice do you have for first-time founders when it comes to starting their startup?

Make sure you're in it for the right reasons. Startups aren't easy and if your motives aren't right, it will be difficult push through the obstacles. 

Team is everything. Your company will only go as far as the people carrying it. Be extremely protective over who you let into your organization and extremely supportive of those who are a part of it. Taking care of your team is the most important thing you can do.

Listen to your customers. No one cares about your grand ideas. Everyone cares about their problems though and will pay for them to be solved. Running a business is a customer-centric exercise and can't be done successfully with prioritizing your constituents.

If you’re interested in learning more about Ideate, you can visit their site here.

Have any questions about Tulsa or Atento Capital? Feel free to send me a note to sean@atentocapital.com.

Thanks for reading!