jen spencer coaches

Rich Lorbach: The Wisconsin Entrepreneur

Richard Lorbach is an anomaly.  Based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he’s launched 5 companies (4 of which have been purchased) since 2002, all while keeping his full-time job as a graphic design consultant for a bank.

Have you always been an entrepreneur?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. But I’m not a bricks and mortar guy. So I didn’t really get started until I discovered the Interwebs in the late 90s. I quickly realized that the barrier to entry had been shattered. And the tools and resources available today are significantly cheaper and more expansive than they were a decade ago, making the process even easier now.

I would imagine you have many ideas you want to develop.  What helps you determine which companies to actually create?

I’ve founded/co-founded four different startups and I’m in the process of launching another this month. New ideas pop into my head often, but they get filtered fast: 1) Is this a product people want and will pay for? 2) Is this idea already taken?

If the new idea passes these two questions I’ll dig in. (99.2% of my ideas are terrible and don’t pass question 1).

What sources of inspiration do you use/read/watch? Any role models that guide you?

I’ve been very fortunate to meet and work with a lot of really smart and innovative people. I’m inspired and motivated by all of them in different ways. One very important lesson I’ve learned: Never underestimate the relationships you develop and the connections you make. It’s a small world out there. At some point these people will play a part in your future. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Aspiring entrepreneurs should check out Guy Kawasaki, Kevin Rose, Tim Ferriss, and Seth Godin. These guys have seen and done it all.

For those that are looking to create and sell a company, what are your lessons learned and recommends for going down that road?

Some of the best advice I received early on was to be “lean and mean.” And this has been critical for me. Keep your fixed costs down and only spend money on things that will contribute to your bottom line. If you can operate sufficiently from your home office, you don’t need an expensive downtown lease. And if you can, delay hiring full-time employees and make do with contractors and temps.

I’ve read that 90% of new startups are destined to fail within the first year (I personally think that number is too high). But as daunting as that figure is, don’t dwell on it. If you’ve found a hole in the market and are dedicated to executing your vision, you will have some measure of success. How successful you become is entirely up to you.

How do you balance your job, new endeavors and family?

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I tell people this all the time and it’s a running joke with family and friends. I suppose I’m just lucky that I can function on less sleep than most humans. There’s work to be done dammit, I’ll leave sleepy time for my competitors.

Rich’s Newest 2010 Launch:

Rich’s Portfolio:

  • Launched in 2008 and sold to Incomm in 2010.
    GroupCard is a two-time winner of Facebook’s prestigious fbFund program (backed by Facebook, Accel, and Founders Fund), and participated in the fbFund REV incubator program. GroupCard was invited into the private beta for Facebook Payments and the Facebook Gift Shop. GroupCard was also recently recognized by Facebook as a Preferred Developer Consultant.
  • Launched in 2006 and sold to National Lampoon in 2008.
  • Launched in 2007 and sold 50% to National Lampoon in 2008.
  • Launched in 2002 (it sold in 2004 shortly after I left the company).

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