Allison McGuire, the founder and CEO of Walc, created a phone app that gives you turn-by-turn navigation based on nearby landmarks. With her experience in building political startups at the National Security Network and ProgressiveCongress.org as a Program Director, Allison has the right background knowledge to get her idea up and “walcing.” Allison will be attending Woman’s Startup Lab this month which will only add to her experience and knowledge as a woman entrepreneur in the technology space. Walc has been recognized by Fox 5 News, AlleyWatch, and the Chicago Tribune, just to name a few. Find out about Allison’s journey when creating Walc and life as a woman entrepreneur.
Who should use Walc?
Everyone who walks! Walc helps you get where you need to go and explore new terrain on foot. The app gives you directions based on what you see. Instead of telling you to head north, Walc orients you with landmarks and local businesses. Never worry which way is north again. Walc’s mission is to create a walkable world. Walc is spelled with a “c” because the “k” was taken.
What experience did you have that led you to creating Walc?
I founded Walc because I have a terrible sense of direction and walk everywhere. I was surprised that as driving navigation was becoming increasingly sophisticated, the same wasn’t true for walking. I set out to change that and help people discover new places on foot.
How has your experience as the Director at the startups National Security Network and ProgressiveCongress.org prepare you for Walc?
Building a political startup has many of the same challenges as building a tech startup: resources are limited and you’re forced to be creative when getting people to care about what you’re doing. I learned that I love building things from the ground up and negotiation is key to getting work done.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while creating the app?
Since I don’t have an engineering background, I have been snookered by people who have attested to know how to build something that they didn’t. From this I’ve learned to communicate in a language that makes sense to deeply technical people, understand how our stack is built, ask lots of questions, and measure deliverables.
Tell us about an experience when you were grateful that you created Walc:
Since my doctor told one of her patients about Walc, he’s been using the app since. He has learning disabilities and finds the app to be especially helpful and simple. I love that our technology instills confidence. Imagine a world where people were more confident. It would be a gorgeous place.
What do you find to be most challenging about running a company?
There are so many challenges. Part of my job as CEO is being resilient — no matter what crazy things are thrown my way, I need to find a way to handle them and move forward. Even if I don’t like it, I always do what’s best for the company.
What has been your biggest lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is hard. It’s a rollercoaster and it’s completely unpredictable. I’ve learned to keep my mind open but be fast when making decisions. The worst thing that can happen is not that making a mistake — I’ve made millions of mistakes — it’s stalling other people’s work by avoiding decision making. It’s important to understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can fill in the gaps by working with people who are smarter than you. You’ll learn more, get solid advice, and gain trusted advisors and confidants along the way.
Who is your role model and why?
There are so many people who inspire me. I find serial entrepreneurs to be especially inspiring, because of their grit and determination. I see parts of them that I want to be, look to how they’ve built their businesses, add my flavor to it, and apply it to my company.
What would someone be surprised to know about you?
I grew up in the entertainment business in Los Angeles and rubbed lots of elbows with celebs. My most awkward moment was when I tripped in front of Brad Pitt. He was not impressed. Not my best look.
What do you like to do on your downtime when you aren’t running a company?
Dancing. It makes me feel free. I use my gym’s studio, blare music and leap across the floor. My style is a mix of ballet, modern and hip-hop.
What advice would you give someone who has an idea for an app but doesn’t know where to start?
Go to a Lean Startup Machine Bootcamp. It gave me the insights I needed to determine if a) my idea was compelling; b) my idea would make money; and c) smart people would work with me to create it. Then, get to work! Sketch out your idea and put it in a prototyping app (I use POP) so you can show it to other people. Don’t make the design cool or sexy — the more basic the better — because people will fall in love with the design. Then see what people think, refine it based on feedback, and pitch it to some developers and development shops to scope cost.
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
If you’re a budding entrepreneur, you’re welcome to contact me with any questions. Email info[at]walc[dot]me and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!