BizSpark Member Zirtual Raises $2 Million from Tony Hsieh and Others To Ramp Up Virtual Assistants

BizSpark member Zirtual is in the news today with founder Maren Kate Donovan securing $2 million in funding from Zappos founder Tony Hsieh and others.

We interviewed Maren some time ago for our success stories project. Here is some of that interview again.

What was the most difficult challenge your business faced this year?

Maren: Bootstrapping a startup when everyone else around you is worshiping at the altar of venture capital and taking on other people’s money. I’m eternally grateful that we have bootstrapped as long as we have, even though it has been the roughest two years of my life. Keeping complete control of the company in the early days is key to letting creativity, not a board room, drive your business.


How do you know when you are failing in product development and how do you make a correction – do you make the decision on your own, or do you consult your team?

Maren: I usually see the problem and then figure out a solution, then I will go on to consult our team so they can find things I overlooked. That way we have a more holistic approach and a better solution than if just one person tried to solve the problem.

What signals from your consumers do you look for to signify that you are winning?

Maren: LTV, absolutely hands down when a client stays with you month after month it is a sign you are winning.


When you need to ask questions on your team, who do you go to? Who do you usually turn to outside of your organization to ask questions?

Maren: I turn to advisors occasionally and my team more often, I talk to the people who spend a lot of time in whatever area it is I’m curious about and they help inform me.


Who would you like to be your mentor, and what would you ask him or her?

Maren: Sarah Blakely of Spanx. She’s a brilliant entrepreneur and created a billion dollar company from the ground up. I would just like to spend a few weeks shadowing her and learning from her leadership style.


Who is your mentor, and what was the last great thing he or she told you and your team?

Maren: I have a few mentors and one of the most important things one of them ever told me was to always do what’s right for the business, no matter what. To treat it like it is your flesh and blood.

What has overjoyed you in the past month?

Maren: Our new COO joining.


Who inspired you the most this week, and why?

Maren: Reading the story of how was started.


When was the last time you fell in love with a product?

Maren: The last time Erik, our lead designer, made an update to our website. I fall in love over and over again with our product and the people behind it.


Has starting your own company provided any answers about your life? Have you discovered something about yourself that you didn’t know before?

Maren: I never knew how persistent I was or how far I was willing to go for something I believe in. Starting Zirtual and growing it to over 40 people has taught me that anyone can do anything if they truly set their mind to it.