We are excited to launch our new blog series, where we will be featuring the brilliant minds behind our startups. L-SPARK would not be possible without the founders like Aaron Carr, Founder and CEO of Qarrot, that make up our portfolio.
Can you tell us a bit about Qarrot and some business milestones you are proud of?
Qarrot is a cloud-based employee rewards and recognition platform. With Qarrot, teams and businesses can easily recognize and reward their staff for their contributions and accomplishments.
Like many startups, Qarrot evolved from a different beginning! Initially, the company focused on building ‘gamification’ apps and solutions for large enterprise clients. That led us to one day build an employee incentive program (using gamification and rewards) for a large US retailer in 2015.
In 2016, we joined the 2nd cohort at L-Spark and started our journey towards building a true SaaS platform that incorporated our gamification approach as well as the employee motivation and engagement features we’d learned by building the program for our US client.
A few years later, Qarrot is a highly-rated (4.5/5 stars) employee recognition platform with lots of clients. Plus, in 2018 we raised a seed-round and are aiming to raise additional funding later this year or early next year to help fuel our growth.
How did you come up with the idea for Qarrot?
The idea for Qarrot really originated when we built a custom employee incentive program for a large US retailer. Before then, we weren’t even thinking about employee recognition!
When we went through L-Spark in 2016, the opportunity to take that approach and package it into a SaaS offering really came into focus. Even then, we had to build a prototype and do lots of market testing before Qarrot (as it is today) really emerged.
Where did your passion for building your business stem from?
I’ve always had a passion for building products, even before I was an entrepreneur. That helped fuel the early stages of my journey, but my passion for Qarrot specifically really emerged when I learned that small to mid-market sized companies (with 50 to 1,000 employees) didn’t have any cost-effective employee rewards and recognition solutions available to them. At the moment I learned this, it became our rallying cry and knowing that we’re helping address an underserved segment of the market is really motivating for the entire team.
What was the hardest part in the early stages of Qarrot’s growth?
As I’m not a software developer, one of the biggest challenges I had was translating my ideas into a concrete product. Like many startups, I didn’t have access to capital in the early days (and, frankly, that’s still a challenge) so hiring a team wasn’t easy. I started by generating revenue from small services contracts that eventually allowed me to make my first hires. That part of the journey was really tough as I had ideas, energy, and passion but wasn’t able to execute easily.
Any advice for other entrepreneurs?
I would simply advise that founders really take the time to ‘market-test’ their ideas before quitting their jobs and starting a company. It’s going to be hugely challenging for you and, likely, your family. So be smart and do as much validation as you can before overly committing yourself. But once you commit, push to execute your vision and don’t be afraid to adapt as you learn and get market / customer feedback.