The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)’s Accelerator program empowers early-stage entrepreneurs with the tools, community and accountability necessary to aggressively grow and master their businesses. Peter Gabauer, an EO Accelerator participant in Brisbane, Australia, is founder and CEO of Table and Desk, which provides custom furniture in 14 days. As a startup entrepreneur who is actively growing his business, Peter recently attended the inaugural MyEO Deal Exchange Conference in Denver, Colorado, where he pitched Table and Desk in EO’s first DX Angel-Shark Experience and received a US$250,000 investment in his company.
In 2018, Alan Peterson, an EO member in Orange County, California, formed MyEO Deal Exchange (MyEO DX), a resource for connecting EO members who wish to find mutually beneficial deals. From 24–27 October 2018, the inaugural MyEO Deal Exchange Conference was held in Denver, Colorado and welcomed more than 60 EO members from 10 countries, 29 chapters and nine regions.
In addition to speakers including Verne Harnish, EO founder and CEO of Gazelles, and Jeff Hoffman, founder of Priceline, the conference featured the DX Angel-Shark Experience where startups pitched Angel-Sharks in hopes of coming away with an investment—much like in the popular shows Dragon’s Den, Shark Tank, Tigers of Money and Den of Lions. The Angel-Sharks committed to investing a minimum of US$250,000 and ended up topping that with a total investment of US$400,000.
Peter Gabauer (pictured at left), an EO Accelerator participant from Brisbane, Australia, and CEO of Table and Desk, was awarded US$250,000 for his pitch to the Angel-Sharks. We asked Peter about his entrepreneurial journey and his plans for maximizing the investment. Here’s what he shared:
How and when did you start Table and Desk?
My entrepreneurial journey began when I left my job as a marketing manager to start my own marketing company. Our clients ranged from not-for-profits to luxury boatbuilders. In 2008, a friend asked me to help him commercialize an invention for making frames for tables, desks and a wide variety of other applications. So, I set about licensing manufacturers to use his intellectual property.
Around this time, my daughter asked me to help put her new desk together. I envisioned a memorable dad-and-daughter project, passing her the Allen key and showing her how to put it together so she would have the satisfaction of doing so herself. Instead, it took considerably longer to put together the simple desk than I thought. When we put it in her room, it didn’t quite fit. She shed tears of disappointment, and though we rearranged her room, we couldn’t make it fit, so she moved into the spare room.
There had to be a better way! Why can’t you buy a desk that will perfectly fit the available space? We had the technology to make custom desks; we just needed to create a way for customers to buy them easily. Thus Table and Desk was born―a website platform enabling customers to customize furniture specifications to the millimeter and choose the top and frame colors to suit their space.
What’s the most challenging aspect of running your company, and how has this impacted your business?
Having to work in areas that are not always my strong suit! I am a marketing guy; administration is something I can do, but I just don’t get any energy from it. When you’re bootstrapping, you have to cover many bases, but there is an opportunity cost for doing so. The flip side is that you understand your business inside-out, which is valuable in the long run.
How has your participation in EO Accelerator impacted your entrepreneurial journey?
Joining EO Accelerator has opened the door to very relevant business education born from real experiences of other entrepreneurs, which carries significant weight. Accelerator learning days help you focus on key pillars in your business. Another benefit is the shared energy that you get from being exposed to other entrepreneurs who are pushing as hard as you are to achieve their goals and dreams. You journey together, forming a high level of trust and respect. One conversation with the right person can make all the difference and provide enormous clarity. The people I have met in EO have been smart, humble and generous.
You attended the inaugural MyEO Deal Exchange Conference and walked away with a significant commitment from Angel-Sharks. What, in your opinion, went right with your pitch to help secure their investment?
I think the value proposition we are offering was obvious for a lot of people attending. Some other businesses were not able to articulate their value proposition easily because their product or service offering was more complex and difficult to understand. Many people could relate to the problem Table and Desk is solving, both for corporate and residential markets. I took it as a great compliment that some of the people we were pitching against said they would invest in our business.
How did EO Accelerator help you prepare your pitch for the Angel-Sharks? Did you conduct any practice sessions?
Being in EO Accelerator has helped bring clarity to the business. Also, being in EO has sharpened my ability to concisely communicate our unique value proposition for our customers. I did get together with a couple of EOers at the conference and we rehearsed our pitches for each other and gave feedback. This helped a lot.
How will the investment and input from the Angel-Sharks change your company’s trajectory?
One of the first things we will do is engage a local CEO/sales champion and set up a customer service team. We will support that with the appointment of a digital marketing agency to launch the business. We already have licensed local manufacturing in place, so we can start to supply immediately. This cash infusion will have a great impact on the growth of the business. We hope to leverage the connection and strategic capability of the Angel-Sharks to make sure we do this well. This will then position us for the next round of funding to help the business scale with additional products we have designed.
Will your deal with the Angel-Sharks include mentoring/guidance/input from the Angel-Sharks? If so, in what form?
Our deal with the Angel-Sharks will include mentoring, strategic advice and connections with other companies that will help us launch in the U.S. This is just as important as the financial investment—perhaps even more so, as this is what will propel us forward.
Besides the US$250,000 investment, what was your most powerful takeaway from MyEO DX?
As with all EO events, there are so many takeaways that are extremely valuable. For me, it was hearing Verne Harnish talk about growth through acquisition. With 3 million baby boomers retiring in the next few years, there is a massive opportunity to buy businesses and grow them.
Scott Fritz, one of the Angel-Sharks, talked about being productive versus being busy―it seems like everyone you ask is busy, but at what cost? Being productive is about being present and focused. He talked about the importance of moving from working in to working on your business as soon as possible. That one takeaway alone is incredibility valuable in helping to reframe goals and intentions.
Of course, there’s additional value in the incredible people you meet, and the stories and learning gained. Through EO Accelerator, I have made not just contacts, but friends. EO has provided an incredible experience for me and my business.
MyEO DX 2018 in Denver was a tremendous experience on so many levels: incredible people, the speakers and workshops were second to none, and the Angel-Shark experience was beyond my expectations. I’m already looking forward to the MyEO DX 2019 event!
The MyEO Deal Exchange platform is now live and can be accessed through the MyEO page.