In September and October 2021, Startup Colorado completed two successful pilots of our Founder CO-OPetitions serving 24 rural-based entrepreneurs. Founder CO-OPetitions are 4-week virtual programs that serve early entrepreneurs in the idea or launch stage of their business. We wanted to hear the full origin story from one CO-OPetition participant. In his own words, this is Brock Predovich with the story of his startup, Trustio.
Trustio began as a result of a variety of experiences in my professional life. For over 10 years I worked as a freelancer, consulting individuals and small businesses in online lead generation and sales. I had several experiences where I’d have to chase after the client for months once the work was complete in order to get paid. I even had a couple times where the client didn’t pay me at all. It was so frustrating that in 2018 when I needed to self-fund my previous startup at that time, Bravrr Inc., that I decided to go into residential construction.
I became a contractor building garden sheds and greenhouses for homeowners. The work was hard and much of it was during the winter months outside, but I knew within 5 to 7 days I could build a shed or greenhouse and make enough money to pay my partners and devote the rest of my time to the engineering and development of our technology behind Bravrr.
During the sales process of a shed or greenhouse I noticed that the client was always reluctant to give a down payment to start a project. This was because of a previous experience they had working with a contractor or stories they heard from family or friends of contractors running off with the money for their down payment. But, I figured out a way to build trust with these clients and everything was going great.
Great until one of my clients ‘stiffed’ me for payment on a project. This came at a time when I really needed the money, not only for my startup but also just to live. I thought at the time there’s got to be a better solution to this problem. As a freelancer chasing after payments, as a contractor worried about being stiffed on my next project, as a client worried about getting my money stolen by an unscrupulous freelancer or contractor.
I thought, what if there was some kind of third-party system where the client could fund a project upfront and their money would stay safe until I completed the work. Something similar to an escrow account. This way, as a freelancer or contractor, I would know the money was there so I could safely begin work and the client would have the peace of mind that their money was safe.
I wrote down in my phone, “Payment protection platform for contractors and clients.”
After closing Bravrr at the end of 2020, my team and I wanted to stick together, we loved working together and were committed to finding our next venture together. Over the course of a month we pitched each other various ideas and my unfortunate experience of getting stiffed in 2018 while building garden sheds and greenhouses came up again in our conversations.
We interviewed over 100 contractors, homeowners, freelancers and small businesses and found that there is a huge problem of trust within any service based transaction. Additionally, aside from trust during payment, we also found that communication was another huge component of trust and client satisfaction. Therefore with this data in hand, we set about building Trustio in the first quarter of 2021. We created a simple web/mobile app that allows a freelancer or contractor, really any service based business, to create a quick invoice, the client can fund a project partially or in full, then the freelancer/contractor can use the simple project management features to keep the client informed and happy during a project until completion where their payment is immediately release to them.
In September of 2021 we launched our first pilot where several contractors and freelancers tested out the Trustio app and we received great reviews and feedback on the platform. Since then we have integrated new features requested by our beta testers and now launch version 2 of our app.