Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, Kristin Fitch, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey
Kristin Fitch is CEO and co-founder of ZiggityZoom Media, a multi-media tech start-up based in Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Virginia. Focus is on, “Sparking Creativity and Imaginations” by providing engaging products to families, children and teachers. Comprised of a network of family and education-related websites reaching millions of families a year, ZiggityZoom also produces top quality mobile content such as educational games, family apps and ebooks. To date, the company has produced over 7 mobile apps for iOS devices and over 30 successful children’s ebooks.
As the creator and innovator of “My Website in a Day” workshops, Kristin regularly does web strategy consulting in the area. She is also a mentor for tech start-up efforts such as Start Norfolk (48 hour build a business/app weekend) and Norfolk’s accelerator program, Hatch.
Prior to co-founding ZiggityZoom, Kristin oversaw the Site and Ad Operations of the regional News and Community website, PilotOnline.com, owned by Landmark Communications. She has been in the online field since 1999.
CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
Kristin: We play in two sandboxes. The first sandbox we play in is the fun and games space. The other sandbox involves Creative Learning/Education. While our core focus has consistently been in providing quality online and mobile content to families and teachers that is only the jumping off point.
Our anchor site is ZiggityZoom.com, a site geared to families with children 2-8 and teachers. The site offers original educational content, pre-k online games, coloring, parenting articles, and crafts. We continue to build on our product offerings, whether it is a new mobile educational game or online workbook. While we have rolled out over 7 mobile apps, 5 of them geared to preschool/kindergarten spelling, we continue to stretch ourselves into new areas that align with our company strengths and objectives.
Currently, we are working on two new initiatives. One is an effort we started several years ago called National Kindergarten Readiness, a website (NationalKindergartenReadiness.com) where we offer free parent and teacher resources. It is an effort to educate and encourage parents in the role of preparing children for Kindergarten to ensure school readiness and lifelong success. Now, moving forward, we are working on releasing a web and mobile Kindergarten Readiness product that will help preschool students by assisting parents and teachers to better prepare children for school readiness and success through games and challenges and an innovative reporting system. We are looking for national partners for this product.
The second is a new mobile game we launched, Rojo Word, a fast-paced, challenging, yet fun, anagram word game. It is addictive and fits into the Brain training category. It gives your mind a quick workout and strengthens your spelling and thinking skills. We have many new updates planned, including a National Educational Word Challenge. This week, Rojo Word won About.com Reader’s Choice award for Best New App, beating out the other 5 app finalists (including Google Maps).
As a company whose strengths include conceptualization, ZiggityZoom has plans for additional web and mobile apps. More information can be found at ziggityzoommedia.com.
CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Kristin: In an ideal situation, I would recommend to anyone looking to start a business to first work in that field or a related industry. Additionally, start working on your new business while you still have income and begin to put aside money to fund the new business. I would also tell them that it is important to know where the opportunity exists, how it plays into the market and future markets. Focus on creating a MVP and getting customers. Too many new entrepreneurs focus on building a product or service that takes months, or longer, to get to market and/or focus on trying to raise money. If you focus on the MVP and go after customers, the money will come in. Also, I think companies should worry less about raising capital and instead take on side jobs in their area of expertise to fund their business early on. There are two reasons for this: 1) you often meet new contacts, learning many things along the way that you can apply to your own efforts, and 2) it provides revenue, removing the need to spend months trying to raise capital or give away equity.
Stop talking and act. Seriously, I meet too many people with an idea and 6 months or a year later that person is still trying to figure out how to get going. Or they begin working on a product and run out of money. If lack of money is your roadblock and it stops you from moving your product forward, you need to consider if you really have the drive and passion to make it as an entrepreneur, because those that do succeed do not let anything stop them. You find another way. You get creative. You negotiate. Or you do it yourself. Go learn how. Nothing is stopping you. Don’t make excuses.
Find mentors or advisors who will motivate you, but more importantly, find people who will listen and keep you accountable to what your goals or objectives are. Find those that will tell you to suck it up, figure it out and get moving.
What’s the magic sauce? Well, you, the entrepreneur is part of it. It will take passion, determination and your drive and your ability to get out there and meet people (customers, investors, contacts). You need to be able to convey what your product/business does, in brief, and what you need and who you are. If you cannot convey those things clearly and quickly you will spin your wheels.
CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
Kristin: Start attending events that bring together creative people. Of course, I would recommend going to events for start-ups, entrepreneurs, and business events in your field. Also, go to related events, or areas you lack a bit of expertise in, even consider taking some courses in business if this is not your forte. Not only will you glean information but you will make contacts that you would never have made otherwise.
CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Kristin: Being successful in any area of business commands that you be willing to share your knowledge with others and also be open to information that others are kind enough to share with you. I am not referring to trade secrets here, but general knowledge that can be helpful to any entrepreneur or startup. I have learned valuable lessons from many business owners in my own community who were most gracious to share their experiences. As a mentor, I also try to share my business knowledge with new startups.
CIT: What makes Norfolk’s tech scene unique?
Kristin: The tech scene in Norfolk-Virginia Beach is growing. It’s an exciting time for our area as the startup and tech scene is building and the efforts of many smaller groups are coming together to connect those in tech and other related industries. Our tech scene includes meetups for specialized groups such as, iOS, UI/UX, .Net, to bigger monthly events in our area, such as New Tech Meetup, Drinks Downtown, and regularly scheduled Start up events, 48 hour build-a-business and hackathons. Our area has an accelerator program, co-working spaces and other innovative options to consider when starting your business in this area.
We are bringing independent tech folks, companies and related talent together to make our area stronger and our networks richer. We have people becoming involved that are just starting tech companies, or have an idea, to seasoned professionals with years of experience. Even those with experience in modeling/simulation, medical, new ventures, materials and education which adds to the depth of creative solutions our area is positioned to create through the growing tech scene.
With our area’s strong military presence, a large tourism market, many colleges and universities, and a large seaport we also offer many additional skills and talent that many other tech areas do not. And we are a friendly, laidback, ready- to-help area for anyone considering heading to Norfolk-Virginia Beach area.
Kristin Pierce Fitch, CEO Ziggity Zoom, LLC