OwlSpark | Rice University Startup Accelerator | PeopleWise: Alex Wesley
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PeopleWise: Alex Wesley

Alex Wesley (Class 3 alumnus and founder of Arovia) has completed a highly successful Kickstarter campaign for his company’s first product, the SPUD, or Spontaneous Pop-Up Display.

Since OwlSpark, Alex has added a marketing person to his team and together, they have faced a number of successes—but not without challenges. He lives by a principle found in the book The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt: You can always trace to a bottleneck that limits progress. The first bottleneck they faced, which dates back to Arovia’s time in OwlSpark, was proving that a market exists for pop-up displays like the SPUD. Through the rigorous customer discovery process, Alex and his team began to see a trend that this market does exist. After the program, they faced another hurdle: finding an industrial designer to to complete their design, a necessity in being able to share the vision of their product. The challenge was not only finding a designer, but paying for one as well. Leveraging their network and taking advantage of grants, Arovia scraped together the funds to work with the University of Houston’s industrial design program.

As the design of the SPUD evolved, Alex and his team wanted one more final market test, which evolved into one of the top Kickstarters of 2016, which landed them on the Today Show, where SPUD was featured as a tech trend for 2017. Since then, Alex and his co-founder, George Zhu have spent most of the past year traveling around China, laying the groundwork for the manufacturing and shipping processes to fulfill their promise to the 1,901 Kickstarter backers.

The cool thing about entrepreneurship is that there are infinite solution spaces.

Whenever there are a few bumps in the road, Alex doesn’t worry. Reminiscing on the challenges he and his team faced thus far, he has always found a creative solution, stressing that there is always a solution if you are willing to look for it.

Beyond OwlSpark, Alex found additional resources and support from the entrepreneurial community in Houston. With the addition of new co-working spaces, the local ecosystem has continued to strengthen. While being in a concentrated environment of startup teams like OwlSpark makes it easy to receive quick feedback, Alex points out that help is always available if you ask.

Resources are still there if you reach out. It’s your job as an entrepreneur to reach out and use everything you can.

When asked what he believes it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, Alex replied, “The only commonality I’ve seen through all this is that the people who succeed are the ones willing to fail. Motivation is obviously necessary, but you need people willing to take a swing at it and maybe miss the first few times.”


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