I’m Tristan Pollock, a tech entrepreneur who’s built and sold 2 companies and invested $30M into startups.
I started Storefront in 2012 when 1 in 10 stores was sitting vacant for multiple years.
We built Storefront to fill this gap with local and emerging brands and creators. We’ve since opened thousands of storefronts for brands like Kanye West, Nike, and beyond.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
Before Storefront, I sat firmly at the intersection between social impact and technology. I built and sold a social impact media company called SocialEarth, helped build out Best Buy Social Responsibility in the early days of CSR (now ESG), and kicked off the first TEDx at the Best Buy campus in Minneapolis.
Treat yourself and others like imperfect humans and you’ll relax a little on your way to the moon.
Despite having an acquisition, we still bootstrapped Storefront, walked the streets to find our first customers, and had a good enough rough MVP to get into AngelPad and take our idea to a national audience with the help of the AngelPad incubator in San Francisco.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
I started my entrepreneurial journey by following what I was passionate about. That was the social impact and creating positive change in the world. Thus, I built SocialEarth, a social impact media network that scaled to 200 contributors in 25 countries. We won multiple awards for our solution journalism and then sold the company to a larger player in the corporate social responsibility space.
Then I switched to working on Storefront, where we built an Airbnb-like platform for retail. We had friends opening pop-up art galleries and stores and wanted to make the process easier for creatives trying to meet their customers in person and build their community with experiential events. We bootstrapped it until we got into the AngelPad accelerator in Silicon Valley and had three days to move out from Minnesota and start the program. We leaped and never looked back raising $10M in venture capital from the likes of Spark Capital, Nas, Gary V, and other top Silicon Valley VCs.
That 5-year journey led to eventually selling the company to a French competitor and joining one of our investors, 500 Startups. From there I supported hundreds of startups and thousands of founders as an EIR and VC investing over $30M via their accelerator and seed fund.
From there I traveled the world with my wife launching accelerators in places like Moscow and Riyadh until finally ending up in Minnesota with our families during COVID.
Since then, I’ve been building CTO.ai with my community growth approach to support inclusive development teams.
I’m also very excited about ClimateTech and have made about a dozen investments in the space as a VC and angel investor. The intersection of impact and technology is where I flourish and protecting our wild spaces is imperative.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Storefront continues with a strong CEO and founder in Mohamed Haouache as an imperative business helping businesses rebound post-pandemic. Bringing life back to our main streets and storefronts has never been more important.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
As I look back on my lessons in building and scaling startups and communities, I’ve realized that I take a collaborative, cross-functional approach to growing organizations.
I call it Movement Building and it takes pieces from community strategy, PR, and growth hacking to drive forward mission-driven companies. I’ll be releasing a course on this on Superpeer in the coming weeks.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
ProductHunt hands down are the most effective way to get your initial customers. I detail some tactics on using it here.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m a big fan of creative books that inspire new ways of thinking, so I’m currently reading things like The Three Body Problem and The Overstory.
Re: business books, I recommend The Business of Belonging by David Spinks.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Lean into your authentic self. The more you be yourself and have fun with it, the happier you will be. Treat yourself and others like imperfect humans and you’ll relax a little on your way to the moon.
Where can we go to learn more?
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:
- Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
- Step by step guides on how to start and grow
- Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
- And much more!
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.