We had the good fortune of connecting with Woodie Neiss and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Woodie, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Find a product or service that fills a need in the market. Many times, as in our case, this occurs by happenstance. When I proposed to my husband, I purchased a ring off of Amazon. I planned a surprise at the performed the act at the Miami Beach Symphony. Afterwards we asked someone to take a photo of us holding up the ring finger and I posted that to social media.
My best friend Tom called me promptly and said, “You got married without telling me?!?!”
I told him it was a proposal and the rings were engagement rings.
He asked, “What’s an engagement ring for men?”
I said, “Well there are none so I just bought one off of Amazon until we get our wedding rings.”
He said, “You are an entrepreneur. I’m in fashion and my cousin is a jewelry designer. Why don’t we designed the world’s first engagement ring for men!”
“I’m in,” I said and 3 years later after many prototypes and patents Gámos Rings was in business. (Gámos means matrimony in Greek. And since same-sex marriages were openly practiced in Ancient Greece we chose that as our company name).
As with every business idea they evolve over time and what you go to market with can be very different from the problem for which you were trying to solve. This was our case as well. We decided we didn’t just want to make an engagement ring but ‘an engagement ring that became a wedding ring.’ This led to many conversations and technical challenges. How can we make two rings attach to each other without having to do it at a jeweler?
This led to the two designs we went to market with. The Syndeo ring consists of an engagement band that slides into a wedding jacket. And the Vida ring consists of an engagement band that has an insert that unscrews so that you and attach it to the wedding band. And we’ve also expanded our vision. Why can’t a woman propose to a man or a woman to a woman? Our rings are unisex (and customizable … think different metals, engraving, diamonds) so that anyone can now propose to anyone?
What’s great about this is that we’ve expanded our addressable market. And we aren’t done. Next up a ring to remind yourself the importance of self-love!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I actually run 3 businesses. Gamos, Crowdfund Capital Advisors and GUARDD. Crowdfund Capital Advisors is a consulting and advisory firm that creates data informed policy and education to enable online startup and small business financing. I was one of three entrepreneurs who wrote the framework for what is known as Regulation Crowdfunding. It was a fundamental change to the securities laws that allows entrepreneurs to raise money online from friends and family provided they follow a regulated process. I testified in front of both chambers of Congress and was invited to the White House by President Obama for the bill signing ceremony. This launched an entire industry in 2016 and since then over4,300 companies across the United States have raised over $1 billion enabling entrepreneurship, innovation and creating thousands of jobs. I know this data by heart because when the industry launched I created a data aggregator that collects information on all these companies raising money online and I report that data over to Bloomberg.
More than 1 million investors, the majority of them average Americans have invested in these promising startups. But how do they exit their investment? This led to GUARDD. GUARDD is a compliance technology tool for hyper-growth companies that wish to allow their investors to exit pre a sale, merger or IPO. Investors that wish to sell the securities they bought in these companies can list their securities on private exchanges known as Alternative Trading Systems. The companies must provide current and ongoing company and financial information, much like a public company does, so that investors can make an informed decision (is it worth buying given the current state of their financials?) GUARDD is the technology that allows these issuers to publish their information in a way that is compliant with individual state securities laws.
So as you can see, I don’t rest. I like a challenge (big ones) and I don’t accept defeat. This is what motivates me every day when I wake up. I don’t get paid right now but the payoff will come. I’m certain of it!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Let’s explore Denver. I have kids so Colorado History Museum, the zoo, the Denver Science Museum, the Aquarium and the Children’s Museum are a must! We’d have breakfast at Snooze because there is too much deliciousness. We’d eat at a food truck that we’d find along the way and probably end up for dinner at the Stanley because it is close to home and we love the sushi/noodles you can find there. For other dinners we’d splurge at Guard and Grace and head to Rino to eat at Barceloneta. I’m also a fan of the several food halls we have in Denver so we’d swing by Denver Central Market and Avanti. I’m a big fan of Blue Pan pizza so I’d be sure to show them what I think is the best in Denver. I’d also take them into the mountains. I’m a fan of skiing at Keystone (and do it regularly in the winter after I drop the kids off at school). So I’d show them what I think is one of the best closest mountains. Then I’d go for the ritz and head to Vail to show them how the rich and famous spend their time! Needless to say “drink up” because you can’t get enough of Colorado beers!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would tell any serious entrepreneur to check out Entrepreneurs’ Organization (https://hub.eonetwork.org/). It is a network of entrepreneurs with the sole purpose of helping you overcome the challenges of scaling a business. I joined it after my first business passed $1M in revenues. The group really helped me tackle issues related to incentivizing employees, raising capital and balancing work/life. The lessons and friendships I made through EO have carried forward throughout my life.