Today we dive deep with Alex Gustafson, Founder & CEO of KoaWare for our CEO chat, and explore the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” We’ve all been asked that inquisitive phrase at some point, and answers may have evolved from astronaut to engineer, or President to campaign director, but most of us were predestined to dream big – as we all should. As we mature, “being realistic” and responsible tend to challenge our big ideas, goals, and dreams, when in actuality, we all have the potential to make them a reality.
Alex is a young entrepreneur managing his second successful company, KoaWare, a customizable website builder for real estate professionals. Like many of us, he graduated from college, had a fuzzy direction of what he wanted to do, moved out of his parents house and promptly got laid off from an eCommerce job 3 months in. From there, he overcame stressful financial and career oriented obstacles, which eventually led him to start his own business, Remark Visions. This grew to be one of the most premier Real Estate Marketing companies in New England, primarily focused on content creation, from photos, to videos, Matterport, aerials and more. While Remark continues to thrive, he has focused on building up his tech company, KoaWare, which offers Agent & Brokerage website platforms, and a Property Website creation tool.
We sat down with Alex to gather some entrepreneurial insight, inspiration, and advice he’s gathered along the way.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Entrepreneurial, Creative, Adventurous, Curious, Funny
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An architect. I always loved creating things – I’d take things apart to try to rebuild it into something better. So initially I wanted to be a builder, which then evolved into being an architect.
Now at 28, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Retired. Just kidding.
I want to be an innovator. I don’t want to be anything different, I just want to accomplish my goals in whatever entrepreneurial pursuits I’m going after. I want to enjoy what I’m doing and stress less.
Tell us about KoaWare.
KoaWare is the first website builder of its kind that appeals to technology newbies and to the most tech-savvy coding nerds in the Real Estate industry. For Agents & Brokers, we aim to future proof their website by allowing them to grow with digital trends, in real time.
Too many people believe they need to spend a lot of time and money creating a website, yet by the time it’s launched it’s already outdated. KoaWare offers a solution to that, and firmly believes that you are your own Brand Expert, we’re just providing the tools for you to tell the world your story.
Why do you love what you’re doing?
Because I get to work with my beautiful girlfriend and business partner every single day. Bonus points?
I love what I’m doing because I know we’re fixing a very big problem in the real estate and website development industry. Everyday we get to come up with creative new ideas, and the opportunities are really endless. Also, we have a very smart and talented group of people on our team, who all work hard to develop new features and services for our customers.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve overcome?
We’ve created something that doesn’t exist within this industry, so there’s an education piece involved when presenting the platform. Finding the perfect messaging and pain points have been a challenge when it comes to marketing exactly what KoaWare is, and the solution we’re offering. We’re excited for the launch of our upcoming Agent & Broker Website platform, because we’ve spent a lot of time testing and developing the messaging for Marketing.
How do you celebrate “wins” along the way?
We acknowledge all of the wins – big or small. That could be finishing a new feature within development, signing up a new user, or getting a big partnership deal; all of it matters because it represents our blood, sweat, & tears so to speak.
We’ll reward our hard work by taking time to do the opposite – go for a post-work surf sesh, cook a nice dinner, or cheers with a cocktail.
Starting and running your own business adds up to a lot of hours, with a side effect of forgetting what the words “relax” or “sleep” means – how do you decompress every single day?
This is a challenge for me – I don’t always remember or take time to decompress at the end of the day. But I find if I go surfing, mountain biking, or grill, it clears my head and allows me to check out.
I also make an effort to not look at my email before going to bed, or else I will be up all night thinking about work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
That’s a really hard question because there’s so much great advice I’ve received over the years.
But one that sticks out is “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
It’s important to ask yourself that question and make sure that you’re going after the things you really want, without worrying about all these external factors that hold you back.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give to another young entrepreneur looking to start a business?
Just do it. If you’re passionate about an idea and believe it can work, you’ll never know what it could have been unless you’ve tried it. There are a million reasons why you shouldn’t do something, but you need to stop making excuses and just go for it. There will always be reasons to stop, quit, or avoid it all together, but attempting it in the face of failure is what makes you an entrepreneur in the first place.
Bonus piece of advice…
If you were trapped on a desert island with the option to bring one personal item, one “weapon”, and a celeb sidekick, what would you choose and why?
Is there surf on this island? My first thing I would say is a surfboard, but I can probably make one out of wood if I’m stuck there.
So I’d bring a grill to cook all the fish I’m going to catch; a spear gun for all of the fish I’m going to eat (or to knock out molars like Tom Hanks in castaway, if need be).
Bear Grylls would be good to have on hand.
How long am I trapped on this island?? May be the start of the next venture…
Alex Gustafson is the founder and CEO of Remark Visions and KoaWare. He taps into his curiosity to question the status quo and develop new, innovative ideas. His passion, hard work, and determination goes into everything he pursues. When he’s not working, you can find him surfing, mountain biking, coding, droning, behind his camera lens, grilling, or at the beach. Follow along with his adventures on Instagram.