Founder & CEO of ShowIntell
TBHF Alum, Class of 2018
Acton School of Business
This month TBHF is spotlighting Barton Cromeens, a 2018 Future Texas Business Legend Award recipient from The Acton School of Business. We asked Barton to share his entrepreneurial journey and offer some advice for aspiring business leaders.
You founded your company ShowIntell in 2019. ShowIntell is a search and curation platform that aggregates relevant news and media to the client based on their key search factors. In your own words, why do you think a service like this is an important tool for businesses?
In a digital age marked by the exponential growth of data and global competition, businesses don’t have the information and intelligence gathering tools they need.
When they want to know what is going on with a client, donor, company or industry, they often turn to a search engine or search social media. Hundreds, thousands, even millions of results may be returned.
Most of that information doesn’t meet the business’ needs, but they sift through it hoping to find a piece of intelligence.
And the nature of the internet is that new information is added randomly, which means a business needs continuous monitoring if the insights they seek might be timely in nature.
Search, re-search and 24/7 monitoring of the web is either low-return or impossible when done with one’s own employees.
There’s no reason to sort through a sea of useless information when, with the right tools, the information you need can be delivered to you.
ShowIntell monitors the web using contexts we develop with our clients to ensure they receive the information their employees need to create knowledge and value, enabling them to make more informed decisions, connect with their stakeholders and know the latest industry and competitor news.
You’ve had an interesting career path. Before going back to school to get your MBA at Acton and starting ShowIntell, you worked in news, as a reporter, editor, and strategist. Are there any lessons or experiences you learned during that phase of your career that have helped you in your entrepreneurial journey?
I learned to recognize and develop my strengths and gifts and play to them. Be authentic and who you are. Don’t kill yourself trying to be somebody who you are not. There is a need for people just like you. Surround yourself with folks who can fill in your blank spots and be the person who fills in somebody else’s blank spots.
The strength I discovered in myself over the years was an ability to gather and analyze information and help others find the information they need to make better decisions and improve outcomes/products/services. Sometimes this manifested itself in an editing and storytelling process. Other times it involved building departments or figuring out how to connect audiences with content in ways that met the needs of both customer and publication.
I believed, and continue to believe, that the decisions you make are only as good as the knowledge you create, which is only as good as the information it is based upon. When I decided to launch a venture, it was within that same wheelhouse, utilizing those same strengths/gifts.
One of my favorite mantras comes from Legend Charlie Munger. “The best thing a human being can do is to help another human being know more.”
This is where ShowIntell comes in. We ensure that our clients “know more.” Our ultimate goal involves giving clients the information and time they need to create and apply knowledge. Knowing is not enough. Applying knowledge is everything. By automating search and research functions and surfacing hard-to-find information, we ensure our clients stay focused on application and strategy – not poring over the web.
The entrepreneurial experience has its fair share of ups and downs. Can you share an instance where you were faced with a challenge and how you overcame that obstacle?
As a career journalist, I spent my life doing research, aggregating information, analyzing data and constructing narratives. Add to that a healthy dose of romanticism about what something “can be,” a dash of idealism, a penchant for dreaming and a bit of a Messiah complex regarding a news media industry in decline and launching a product/service quickly gets messy.
I got caught up in a combination “dreampreneur” and analysis paralysis hell trying to create a multi-sided content marketplace. I didn’t have any customer validation other than my belief that, after years in an industry and countless conversations with my network, I knew what was needed. I knew what customers (in this case content creators, advertisers, media companies and content consumers) would adopt/buy. Wrong.
I decided to take one bite out of my proposed solution – trying to establish the value customers place upon high-fidelity content regardless of who created it or its ownership. I hacked together a minimally viable product using bolt-together software in about a week’s time, came up with a unit economic model and began peddling my experiment.
I began learning first
Be a dreamer but find a way to temper it with doing. Put that first foot out there and begin making your reality. The path won’t be what you might have meticulously mapped out. The destination may even change.
But you moved. You built something. You learned.
I may still build something that somehow resembles that multi-sided marketplace with a blockchain backbone for content that establishes and safeguards value, features smart contracts, allows for micropayments and an economic model that benefits media companies and individual content creators alike. Maybe not.
I’m excited to see where we wind up.
One of TBHF’s core values is excellence. How do you define “excellence” in business?
The alignment of need with the ability of an enterprise to continuously fulfill that need, create value and make a desired difference in the lives of its customers, employees, ownership and community. Evolve into something that does that better than the competition. You’ll be the definition of excellent.
How has being part of the TBHF network and alumni association impacted your entrepreneurial journey?
I involved myself with the network and the association because I felt I had a debt and wanted to bring value to the Network or organization. It was a very transactional mindset. Man has debt. Man attempts to pay debt.
Fast forward. I find myself involved with a very diverse group of business people. Diverse in life experience, where they are in their career cycle, industry, expertise, etc.
What almost all of them have in common is their willingness to give.
Need marketing and sales advice? A Legend spends an hour helping me hash through an issue and then has his marketing guru spend another hour with me.
Technical/software problems? A recent grad who is busy with his own startup, unasked, spends hours helping me get over a hump.
I could give more examples, but I don’t keep track anymore.
There is very much the attitude of servant leadership. To whom much is given, much is required.
Some debts just can’t and won’t be repaid. (Don’t tell receivables I said that.)
Have questions or want to learn more about ShowIntell? You can connect with Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org.