For a 19-year-old desperate to get out of a small town, redemption came in the form of a job at a Mickey Mouse operation.
Laura Young couldn’t wait to leave tiny Sikeston, Missouri, to be a guest services representative at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. That summer job in the late 1980s turned into a seven-year stint — along with a promotion to supervisor — at the family entertainment venue, and it’s something that Young, now the CEO of an Austin startup, wouldn’t have traded for anything.
Having to deal with hundreds of people every day helped Young gain confidence. But the gig had another long-lasting benefit she’s kept in the back of her mind throughout her career.
“It was our job to make sure everything was perfect while [the tourists] were there and go above and beyond to get them what they need,” Young said. “Once you do that for years and years, you always do that with all your jobs.”
After subsequently going back to college in Denver, she liked her part-time job at a library enough to move to Austin to get her master’s degree in library science. She worked in the UT library system for several years until she pivoted into the world of venture capital — using the same skill set.
As a research analyst for nearly seven years with Austin Ventures, Young dug deep to expose the financial entrails of startups that were investment targets, as well as patent searches and even criminal background checks.
So when Young was told in early 2014 that Austin Ventures would not be raising any more VC funds and her job would be cut, she almost immediately came up with the idea that she could start her own company to provide the same type of research on contract to VC firms or other types of clients such as advertising agencies that don’t have their own researchers on staff.
The result was Bizologie LLC, which Young formally launched in mid-2014 along with partners — and fellow librarians — Lindsey Schell and April Kessler, who also worked at Austin Ventures. Young said she’s grateful that Austin Ventures not only encouraged her entrepreneurial idea, but let her stay a while longer at AV to get it off the ground.
“I went in a week later and spoke to one of the [Austin Ventures] general partners,” Young recalled. “I figured he’s not going to lie to me if he thinks the idea isn’t any good. Within five minutes, he said ‘I’ll be your first client.’”
Bizologie is still in startup mode. Have you made any mistakes along the way that you’ve learned from? I feel like we learn something every day. Pricing is always the hardest thing to figure out and that was one of our biggest struggles, but I think we have it down now.
You know a lot about the VC world. What about going out to raise money for Bizologie to grow? I know a lot of startups who say they want to raise this much money and talk about that more than how they are going to build their business and provide something that’s useful. I feel like we’ve made it about the business. The funding will come if you create a good company with a product that people want.
Have you had any really strange research requests from clients? Sometimes we feel like we’re private eyes. April [Kessler] talked about getting a PI license but it takes a lot of time. Someone said they were going out to dinner with somebody and wanted to know about them. Somebody else was considering an investment in an industrial bakery and wanted to know the price of chocolate and sugar now and what it would be five years from now. I’m surprised what people come up with.
Is there a local entrepreneur you admire? Kendra Scott. Any time we see a woman who’s successful in business and getting VC funding it’s worth noting. It’s not easy being a woman on either side of that [VC] equation. It’s hard to get invited through the door in the first place.
Have you had any mentors? The partners I worked for at Austin Ventures. Tom Ball encouraged me [to pursue my own business] from the start. When we were closing down, he said he couldn’t wait to see what people did when they leave. He was helpful in letting me know little details about running a business, and he told me about the failures and successes he’d had.
Your favorite Austin restaurant? Chuy’s.
What’s the last show you binge watched? I’m a librarian but I guess my big secret is I’d rather watch TV than read at night. I love “The Leftovers” that’s filmed here. A friend of mine’s house was scoped out for the show. I also like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix. I was in Hawaii recently and did a tour of sights filmed for “Lost” and was in heaven.
What’s on your travel wish list? Easter Island. I’m in love with Provence, and if all the money in the world fell into my lap I’d pack up tomorrow, buy a re-done farmhouse there and settle in. I also love going to New York. I’m a huge Broadway fan.
What’s your favorite Broadway show?“Billy Elliott,” and I have a soft spot for “Rent.” I’d kill for “Hamilton” tickets.