An Interview with Phil Goggin, founder of LZAD
We have Phil Goggin here, founder of LZAD. Phil is starting to put together a nice little story here at Codefi. He went through a startup course offered by one of our co-founders, Dr. James Stapleton. He went on to win at the Startup Weekend, and then he pitched at 1 Million Cups and was approached by someone interested in investing. Full disclosure here, Codefi is also an investor in LZAD and, while we’re not really trying to sell anything, and this isn’t sponsored content, we want to be completely transparent with the stories of individuals we share about. Anyways, over the past year and a half, Phil has made some progress, and we’re here today to talk about his startup journey.
Codefi: How did everything start with LZAD? How did you come up with the idea and what made you interested to pursue it?
Phillip Goggin: Sure. I think with every great idea that has been ever thought of is coming from real life experiences: things that you see and want to have a fix for. So for me, it actually came from being a flight paramedic with a local air ambulance service and we were out teaching a class. Well, one of the concerns that came up was that when we fly into a lot of rural areas, you know we work with a lot of rural fire departments, and so the struggle they always had was being able to provide a landing zone that was illuminated at night, easier for us to see, that we could clearly identify. As we’re sitting, listening to these people talk about how can we, as a fire department, make it easier for you to see us, we realized that there really wasn’t a good option out there. It kind of got my wheels thinking about what we could do. I went back home and starting thinking about existing technologies and what we could do to change or modify those. It really hit me when I was looking through a website about laser technology and that’s really where it was born was coming from an experience and an idea that needed to be fixed, that there was no solution for.
Codefi: How long were you in the industry?
PG: I flew for almost two years. It was [a problem] that we as a flight medic, we see all the time. We do a lot of night flights, and when we would go into these landing zones – I mean, it’s pitch black, you’re talking rural Missouri, rural areas where there’s nothing. And so you’re talking about rural fire departments that have very limited resources and technology to really create a safe, visible landing zone that we as flight crew members feel safe. And so wanting to improve my safety and the safety of my crew, that was really the passion behind coming up with this product.
Codefi: So you see this laser idea. You thought this would be the perfect solution to this problem. What did you do next?
PG: The next point of how to get to this, was figuring out what the technology was behind it, because really, the technology came behind an existing product. There are these laser keyboards that produce a laser image in front of you and you simply type into this laser image on the table in front of you. And I said, “I think that would perfect, but we’ve really got to ramp this thing up.” So in order to get to the final product of what I wanted to use, we really had to look around the technology that was involved with that and figure out who can make this technology for us. So really it was digging into the technical aspect, as well.
Codefi: Where is the company at right now?
PG: Actually, it was really exciting phase for us the past couple of months. Any time that you can take a product from an idea on paper and in your head, and actually have a physical prototype in your hand to test is a really exciting point because it really becomes materialized then. So, we are actually awaiting the arrival of our second prototype, we did an initial round of testing that showed us where we could make improvements upon. So, once we did that we ordered our new prototype, that’s hopefully going to take this product to a new level and we’re going to be receiving that any day now.
Codefi: If you could give advice to anyone that’s interested in the startup lifestyle, what would you tell them?
PG: I get a lot of phone calls, emails, private messages on Facebook, even, asking me, “How did you find the people to help you get to where you are?” And I think that one of the biggest challengers for entrepreneurs – financing aside, coming up with an idea aside – is really finding people that will work with you and take your passion and mold it into something. I think it’s finding those resources. And so, my number one advice is just start asking people, “Who do you know that can help me with…” fill in the blank. Once you start finding those people, even if that person doesn’t know somebody, they know somebody who does know somebody, and it’s really about making connections and networking. And if you can find that right person, it eventually just falls into line. I mean, I didn’t just walk up and go, “Oh, Hi, Dr. Stapleton, I’m Philip.” You know, it really came from knowing this person, who knew this person, who introduced me to him. It’s really just about making those connections.
Codefi: And it’s funny that you say that, because…so one of the reasons we wanted to invest in LZAD, and this is true for a lot of the projects that…specifically us…but even more so usually angel investors and stuff like that…the reason they choose is that people are already doing things. They’ve already started, they’re making progress themselves and then that gets noticed. Sort of the law of attraction, but just get started and it’s like a snowball effect, it eventually grows and grows and grows. So, we saw that in you, you were making progress and everything like that.
PG: I think a lot of entrepreneurs and even people that don’t think they’re an entrepreneur, but really they are…you know the biggest struggle is people going, “Where do I start?” And really it’s just start somewhere. Find a company that’s doing what you’re already doing. Find out what makes them successful. Or, start researching about patents around that particular idea. If you don’t ever start, you’ll never get started. I mean, that may sound very simple, but so many people let themselves get stuck on I don’t know where to start and so I just won’t start, and nothing ever happens. So you’ve got to have that motivation to just simply start.
Codefi: What made you interested to keep coming back to this place?
PG: The energy. I mean, listen, I have worked with other business people. You know, when you think of technology, a lot of people think of St. Louis or T-REX, or some of these other incubators in St. Louis. I’ve been to a couple of them. This one was special to me. I felt like these people were me. And the passion. You walk in the door at Codefi and you don’t want to leave. And even when you do leave, you want to come back. As someone who loves the entrepreneurial spirit, it’s like crack. You have to keep coming back. It really is.
Codefi: How do you envision successfully using the space?
PG: You know, there are so many different minds here, whether it’s about SEO, marketing, brand development, understanding business processes…I think I will be successful here by really taking advantage of those resources. The one thing that I had initial reservations about being involved with Codefi was: How open are these people going to be to want to help me? Do they want to share all that knowledge with me, or do they want to kind of hold back and go, “You kind of got to figure that out on your own.” And, really, I have been overwhelmed with just how much they do want to share and if I have a question are willing to say, “Absolutely” It’s not an issue for any one of them to sit down and say, “Let’s talk about this.” I’ll be successful so long as I am utilizing their minds, their information, and the resources they provide to me.
Codefi: And you’re not talking about just the founders. I mean, this is community wide. We have slew members that just give their knowledge to everyone.
PG: Oh, absolutely. I mean, without a doubt. There’s so many people that come in and out of this door that have an expertise in something beyond the original founders of Codefi. It’s business people who have had failures, who can teach you from those failures, or who have done other marketing avenues that are unique to their industry that you can take and apply. Another thing that makes Codefi great is that it has such a melting pot of entrepreneurialism. I mean, take a bite of everything and enjoy it.