Startup Showdown Founder Story: Issac Hicks of Doxci

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Startup Showdown

In this first in a two-part interview post with Doxci founder Issac Hicks, you'll learn why Startup Showdown is a powerful growth resource for early-stage startups. He offers useful experience-based advice about how to prepare for a successful VC pitch.    

As we prepare for the 2023 Miami Startup Showdown (the third we've hosted in the city!) we thought it might be an excellent opportunity to share some wisdom from a past Startup Showdown winner. In 2022, Doxci (then Slipbot) won the Nashville Startup Showdown event. In this interview, the company's co-founder, Issac Hicks shares highlights from his experience getting on stage to pitch the idea and what's happened because of the support and investment prize. And he drops some helpful wisdom for other founders considering private capital as part of their traction, growth, and scale efforts.    

First, a bit about Doxci and Issac.

Doxci provides a sophisticated technology that simplifies complex enterprise document processing to drag-and-drop functions. The company uses Artificial Intelligence (AI), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to read, process, and complete paperwork-based tasks. Companies across numerous industries use Doxci to document line items for compliance purposes, convert unstructured data to a structured database, and digitize physical documents.      

Issac is an AI and software integrations expert specializing in creating complex, intelligent software systems. He's on a mission to build automated systems that can eliminate practical, low-value tasks - enabling knowledge workers to be more engaged and satisfied with their everyday work.      

We asked Issac about the moment he knew he was an entrepreneur.

I went to school for aerospace engineering because I was obsessed with the ability to build and create. When I was there, I realized that engineers don't usually get to make anything, so I took a job in business transformation consulting. I analyzed, designed, and implemented complex business processes to smooth out mergers and acquisitions processes for Fortune 500 companies.      

It was in that role that I saw companies had all these problems. Mostly, I realized the majority of people didn't like their jobs. (For the record, I didn't either.) I asked why that's the way the world works. Why do we do things we don't want to do? And for what? I thought it didn't need to be this way. The system I saw was fatally broken, and I decided to change it. The only way I could fix the situation was to operate outside the system. It meant doing it myself.

Why is solving this problem distinctly valuable or pressing?

Too many people in the corporate world spend most of their waking lives working on something they don't want to do. They are mired in mindless, tedious, repetitive, low-value data entry work they are vastly overqualified to do. It makes people apathetic about their jobs. The most painful job in knowledge work is data entry. Filling out forms is an awful, relentless process. People hate it. But a lot of people, even in high-up positions, spend their time just reading contracts, pulling information, and filling out forms.

I want people to be adequately rewarded and to bring a sense of purpose and passion back to the workplace. What we're doing is important because it allows companies and employees to get work done through automation. People get to do more things that matter. We help to eliminate mistakes and bored people. Jobs get done better, faster, and cheaper, and people are happier. Everyone wins.

At what point did funding become a factor that could unlock growth for Doxci?

When we launched, we focused on the reinsurance industry. These companies only accept 5-10% of Facultative Placements, but they still have to document 100% of them (because of regulations). That means underwriters spend hours a day reading contracts.

Reinsurance was our first use case. We built the first iteration to solve the issues we could see. Quickly, we recognized we needed to advance the product for "what if" considerations (e.g., managing hand-written information instead of typed submissions, etc.) We went to a large organization to spot as many of these considerations as possible. We saw that if we were going to take on the entirety of this problem, we'd have to focus on expanding the product. At the time, we had a small team. I didn't want to hold back. We could solve the big problem. To do it the right way, we needed funding for the team and the product.  

You competed for seed funding through Startup Showdown. What was the most exciting part of that process?

It was making the finals and the preparation we put in. It was me, my partner, and an advisor in a hotel room. We drilled the pitch over and over, recording and watching it each time and making tiny changes. By the time I got on stage, I had our pitch memorized all the way through.

Being in the hotel, getting ready to make magic happen, was so exciting. We loved meeting the other competitors. Everyone was there meeting each other, and we all were grateful for the opportunity. We shared our entrepreneur war stories. Even though there was camaraderie, there was only one spot to win. We could be friendly but not too friendly.    

How did you come to know about Startup Showdown?

It's a funny story. A friend of mine saw a post about Startup Showdown and sent me a screenshot with the caption, "Hey, you should apply to this. I think with what you're doing, you could actually win." I decided it was worth a shot. Worst case, I'd learn a lot about how to communicate the value we were offering. I did my best through each step of the competition, refined my message, and eventually made it to the stage. It's truly amazing how small events can spiral into life-changing opportunities with effort and intention.

What did the funding from Startup Showdown empower you to do?

We expanded our team and pushed forward hard on major developments we had on the roadmap. The funding has helped us accelerate our huge vision for what we can accomplish with the technology. We're bringing more value to an industry typically rather conventional with business processes.

Would you recommend other entrepreneurs in your position enter Startup Showdown in the future? Why or why not?

Definitely. Worst case, you will get some practice explaining the value you bring. You'll get to demonstrate that you truly understand your customer, their pain, and how to solve it effectively. If you are selected to move forward in the process, you get to have your pitch analyzed by active VCs who can tell you exactly what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.

What did you learn from the pitch competition process that you can share to help other entrepreneurs?

For a long time, I thought pitching was all about getting the person you're pitching to buy into your story emotionally. That's true with clients. But it's not with venture capitalists. VCs want to know why we are so sure our business will work. Some of the emotional story parts are important, but only insomuch as you show them that the pain is real. We're not trying to get them to connect with the pain directly.

A VC giving you money wants to know they can be sure your business will make money. That means you have to orient the pitch in a different way. It's less about how much good you're doing in the world. It's more about the traction you'll build.

If you're in Miami at eMerge this week, let us know! Let's meet up IRL.

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