Entrepreneur of the Week - Tobias Dengel

Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, Tobias Dengel, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey.

Tobias Dengel is the CEO of WillowTree Apps, Inc., an Inc 500 company and a global leader in mobile application and mobile web development.

Previously, Tobias co-founded Leads.com. As President of the company, he managed its rapid expansion as an early pioneer in packaging online search products, including Google, Yahoo!, MSN and AOL, together for sale to small businesses. Leads.com was acquired by Web.com, where Tobias worked in an executive role until 2009.

Prior to starting Leads.com, he was SVP & General Manager of AOL Local & Yellow Pages. He previously held a variety of roles in the AOL Business Affairs department, including VP, International. Tobias began his career as an Analyst at the management consulting firm AT Kearney. He holds a BSE in Finance (Wharton) and a BSE in Systems Engineering, both from the University of Pennsylvania. In his free time, Tobias spends time with his wife and four children, and admiring

CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
WillowTree Apps assists clients in developing strategies, designs and software for mobile devices and other emerging media. We are an Inc. 500 company, and have helped our clients launch apps in iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, mobile web/HTML5, Facebook, and interactive TV. WillowTree has received numerous industry awards, including being ranked a top global mobile development company by SourcingLine and Best Web Design Agencies and being covered by CNBC, Forbes, MacWorld and CNET.

Notable clients include Johnson & Johnson, GE, Cox Media/Valpak, Manta, Vox Media/SB Nation/Verge, the Department of Defense, Harvard Business Publishing, the University of Virginia, The Game Show Network, the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA.

We are based in Charlottesville, VA, and believe our location gives us a unique advantage vs. our competitors in that we are able to hire and retain top talent coming out of Virginia's leading public and private colleges and universities.

CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
It may be trite, but the biggest thing is just to get started and jump off the ledge. Don't worry about early business plans, etc., because in today's environment they will change several times. Make sure you are targeting a big market, because if you are caught up in a big wave, you can make plenty of mistakes and still thrive.  Finally, to be successful, you need to sell -- so make sure you are comfortable presenting yourself and making cold calls, and are comfortable with rejection. Sales is a numbers game, so you have to be willing to take 99 "No" answers to get to one "yes".

CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Somewhat important.  I am not huge fan of networking for networking's sake (that went out the window when I had kids), but creating a network you can tap for specific questions is incredibly important and valuable.

The most important aspect of collaboration/sharing for us is acquiring talent. We have a virtually insatiable need for developers, designers and strategic technical sales/consultants and we continuously work our network to find, vet and hire candidates.

CIT: What makes your city's startup scene unique?
Charlottesville has a rapidly growing start-up scene, centered primarily around our historic downtown pedestrian mall.  Our team enjoys a more rural, relaxed (no traffic!) lifestyle, yet with plenty of intellectual stimulation and entertainment options.  Additionally, we have a great relationship with UVA, giving us access to both engineering and business talent.  We enjoy easy driving and train access to the DC area, and our local airport provides a highly convenient departure point to the rest of the US and world. Come visit us!

Contact Information
Tobias Dengel
CEO of WillowTree Apps Inc.