Disruption – A Key Ingredient in a Successful Startup

Disruption – A Key Ingredient in a Successful Startup

The recap of a panel discussion with 3 successful leaders in the startup world

Allie Magyar, Mahmood Sher-Jan and Steve Barham, 3 successful leaders in the startup community, joined an event in Portland to share how they disrupted their market. They also shared the challenges they faced along the way. Maggie Finnerty, Executive Director at the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network moderated the panel with probing questions that led to insightful answers. We recapped the questions and responses below.

Why did you start your business?

  • I had unique deep industry knowledge.
  • I established a model to score incidents and reduce reportable cases using a combination of technology and human intervention.

What challenges are you facing today?

  • People drive your success so maintaining a culture that attracts the best people is something we are always working on.
  • Someone is always nipping at your heels - having a healthy sense of paranoia is OK. Don’t ever get too comfortable where you are at.
  • Helping the world realize the benefits of our product - that cold brew coffee tastes good and is better for you than other coffee or energy drinks.
  • Establishing an innovative ethos at early stage companies is critical because so much is new, untested and frequently requires ” reengineering”.
  • Empathizing with your customer to really understand how to improve our offering.

What is the key to a successful Startup?

  • Being disruptive in the market you choose to compete in.
  • Being disciplined to learn about the key risks, believing in our product or service and having the courage to move ahead with it.
  • The day we stop innovating, is the day we stop disrupting, is the day we become irrelevant.

Do you have an Exit plan?

  • Our main investors have a time horizon on their exit which gives me a time horizon on planning for a future transaction. My exit plan may or may not coincide with that timeline.
  • If we do the right things building the business, I am confident options for exits will occur, but I don’t have a timeline on when that might be.
  • We are still in the “have an idea, build the team, sell the product stage”. When the “Win” becomes clear, I expect our investor group will be interested in working on an exit plan.

What was the “Aha” moment when you realized you had a successful product or service to offer?

  • When we received our first request from an outside vendor to use a product we had developed for our internal use.
  • When I developed the algorithm and technology that gave deep insight into a serious problem facing the industry that could save companies a lot of money.
  • We haven’t had so much of an “Aha” moment as a series of low points that seem to be less severe each time. We also deeply believe in our product, so that keeps us energized.

What is your advice on selecting investors for your startup/early stage company?

  • It’s not just about the money they bring. The skills and resources of your investors should match the needs of your company in its current stage of development. Your needs will change over time, so it is common for the investor mix to change over time.
  • Be careful whose money you take and your reasons for taking it.


  • A “sister city” type of relationship built between startups/early stage and middle market companies could be a win/win for both and the business community.
  • Oregon and SW Washington have a welcome mat laid out for startups. Maintaining that attractive atmosphere must be intentional in the future to keep our advantage over other markets trying to build vibrant startup communities.

Thank you to the Contributors:

Allie Magyar, Founder and CEO Hubb - Hubb is a SaaS platform that automates the business process for collecting, managing andmarketing the abstracts, speakers and sponsors for conferences and meetings.

Mahmood Sher-Jan, CEO & President, RADAR, Inc. - Innovating and developing purpose-built software to automate incident response and compliance with complex data breach regulations.

Steve Barham, Co-Founder, Riff Cold Brew - A new relationship with coffee.

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