Coffee & Ecosystems

cmf_5gyc6c0-frontline-creative.jpgBefore I worked at Elevator Up I was not involved in the “ tech scene” as the cool kids say. I had been working remotely prior to this role with a SaaS (Software as a Service) company. As you can imagine, being involved in a community or knowing about ecosystems was not part of my world.

I was showing the world a new HR tool for their companies and did not understand the amount of support that is needed not only for startups but also tenured tech companies.

As the four walls of my home office began to close in on me, I knew I needed a change of pace.  This sparked my desire to get more involved with accelerators, incubators and other support organizations here in St. Louis.

When I started with Elevator Up, I began learning more about the industry and the people who help support it. Through my own naivety, I thought this all happened organically. I thought companies in the digital space build great products, and they thrive!

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

– Peter Drucker

Wrong! A lot of local companies out here embrace their inner scrappiness to get to the next level. At Elevator Up, we embrace the same type of relentless attitude and love to share what we have learned from past experiences. From starting a dozen of our own ventures to writing what we are currently learning with our clients on our blog. You can find us deeply rooted in the community. We have opened our doors to Ladies that UX or catch us at the next Creative Mornings which we help sponsor in Michigan.

That’s why we launched The Factory, Michigan’s first coworking space. Through The Factory, we began coLearning, our state recognized school that teaches courses on design, technology, and business to solve the talent gap in the West Michigan community. We love building community and inspiring individuals that make this happen.

Now I was faced with a big task: getting involved here in St. Louis. I was EU’s first remote employee, so I had to not only learn my awesome company’s history, but also bring their passion, expertise, and brand to my new city. If you are struggling with this my friend Kelly at EQ made a fun little map to help guide you through the city.

I was excited to start meeting people within the ecosystem and was aware of the challenges that lay ahead of me from going from zero to hundred.

The entrepreneurial environment here in St. Louis has received a lot of well-deserved press. You can read about it here and here and here and here and here and there’s more – trust me! I’m not going to waste time expanding on the praise for STL’s startup community, as it has been covered by better writers from the likes of Business Insider, Forbes, EQ Magazine and Popular Mechanics.

Since I chose to work out of T-Rex I was able to get involved much more easily than I thought I would. Patty Hagen leads the charge at T-REX; and, if you don’t know of T-REX or haven’t met her team, they are doing some amazing things!

They are not just challenging the status quo, they’re devouring it. Far from your everyday tech incubator, T-REX is a nonprofit innovation center open to those who wish to coexist with St. Louis’ most daring startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Partnering with schools and nurturing diversity, here, there is no wrong age or culture.  Through various programs, events, and partnerships, T-REX is actively carving out a fresh storyline for St. Louis’ long-overlooked downtown corridor.

As I began meeting more companies and individuals within T-REX, I also started to expand my reach. I started to meet even more amazing people, including Christy and Rikki over at CET. CET’s flagship program for entrepreneurs, Square One (SQ1), is a hands-on training program designed to provide support to first time entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region actively engaged in the development of bioscience, information technology or advanced manufacturing commercial enterprises.

“I’m not a businessman – I’m a business, man.”

– Jay-Z

I was meeting so many individuals who are passionate about the city, and also passionate about innovation. That lead me to join 1 Million Cups and helping out as a volunteer. 1MCSTL is operated by ITEN, a tech entrepreneur network and the major resource for St. Louis startups, and powered by the Kauffman Foundation. They meet every Wednesday morning at 9 am nationwide. At this event, you can hear local entrepreneurs and how the community can help them. It doesn’t hurt that all this hubbub is over a cup of coffee and a lot of laughter.

The ecosystem is still growing. I am only touching on the support that is present within the community as well. There are so many other great events thanks to many great people – from Travis Sheridan at Venture Cafe to Ben Burke at Arch Grants – the list is pretty vast. What I enjoy the most about this startup community is the level of openness and richness that these people share.

If you are looking to get involved in the STL ecosystem, check out Accelerate St. Louis. Of course, feel free to drop me a line or stop by for a cup of coffee. Let’s go together! And if you see me out and about, say hello. I’d love to learn more about you.


Justin – Business Development @ Elevator Up

Selling the Omni-Channel Journey.


It’s no surprise to me, or my friends and family, that I was declared a full on “Enthusiast” when I took the Enneagram. For those who don’t know the Enneagram can be seen as a set of nine distinct personality types, with each number on the Enneagram denoting one type. It is common to find a little of yourself in all nine of the types, although one of them should stand out as being closest to yourself. Diving deeper, the Enneagram Institute goes as far as to say the “Enthusiast” personality type gets excited about nearly everything

Unfortunately, this post is not all about me. I know bummer all the readers out there were collectively giving a sigh of relief. Rather, it’s the excitement I feel while getting people excited about potential improvements to their day to day experiences. According to Enneagram, it’s within the very threads of my personality to value a worthwhile experience

Our industry uses storytelling and user personas for our clients. User Personas for our clients to better understand a problem. We not only do this for our clients but we do this internally when we are looking on how to iterate on a workflow, process or problem. Yeah, that’s right folks, we eat our cake too.

Recently we created some proto-personas s to understand our future customer’s journey. We also wanted to know more about their challenges, motivations, and goals in order to better help them succeed.

Our team focuses on interactions and behaviors that users make on their journey. This is the micro level of user experience. There is also a higher, macro level of user experience, called the omnichannel user experience. Omnichannel user experience examines the whole customer journey through a shopping experience. It addresses the user’s transition across channels and their ability to proceed through various stages of the journey.

“Most important elements of the ideal
customer experience: Simple purchasing
processes: 47%.”

— The Economist Intelligence Unit, September 2014

Now, my task is set. How do I present the idea of an “Omnichannel Journey User Experience” to future customers? Even if you tried, you cannot put “that” into a box with evolving customer behaviors and expectations. The value we bring as a team is the value we bring as a team goes beyond enriching your customer’s experience. We do this by letting them take advantage of multiple devices while providing a consistent, cohesive and a familiar experience with whatever screen they are using.

I have found on my own journey through business development that it’s not about what stack your developers know or the design chops your team has but rather your team’s ability to solve unseen problems. I don’t want to belittle or deny the importance of the capabilities because they are hugely important. Did you read about Jim’s post about managing the data of +200,000 products. Well, maybe if you come from outside the computer science world like I do it sounds very complex.

We see billions of these micro-moments every day at Google, when people are saying, in essence, “I want to know,” “I want to go,” “I want to do,” and “I want to buy.”

-Lisa Gevelber at Google

There is the kicker, how do you approach a complicated problem? I would like to say “Yeah that’s easy, start with the problem you want to solve. Though I am guilty of saying this, it starts even before knowing the problem.Here is how we start: we ask a sh*t load of question. And then, we ask a shi*t load more

As I say to the kids at Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship don’t be scared of failing because it is going to happen and it’s going to happen a lot. In fact keep failing and learn from it. this means you are trying something new. We tell our clients, we are here to understand, so get ready because we like to dig deep. We want to inform and guide current and future customers of the idea of creating a holistic experience. We are not glued to one screen on our journey through a product, we’re looking much broader than one micro engagement.

Do you have a project that could benefit from omnichannel user experience? Tell us your Enneagram score because it’s crazy weird and interesting or just give us a shout out!

Until next time,

Justin Heuss

The Maslow Experience.


The other day I was chatting with my wife Alli and we were talking about life with a newborn.  Pretty much we are in survival mode as our little one, Harper, begins to teeth.  Which led us to chat about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  I mean, don’t you guys talk about this too? It helps that Alli has her masters in clinical psychology so these topics are at the forefront of our growing family. We both get excited about learning new things from sociology, psychology or intriguing stories around development.

A brief lesson in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs- in 1943 psychologist Abraham Maslow attempted to answer the question of what motivates us as humans in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. This paper was the basis for what we now know as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow refined his theory until his death in 1970. His final version breaks human needs into eight categories. There are four basic needs:

  • biological & physiological needs
  • safety needs
  • social needs
  • esteem needs

Once these basic needs are met, there are four higher-order needs:

  • cognitive needs
  • aesthetic needs
  • self-actualization
  • transcendence

According to Maslow, we’re only capable of focusing on the next need (see above) in the hierarchy if our previous needs have been met. You’re not going to be wondering about the meaning of life and existential questions if your basic needs (food, shelter, and safety) are not met.

The logic behind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been a backdrop within the rise of digital products. A commonality among products providing value to users is their consideration to the hierarchy of needs. From social networks to food delivery apps, companies are tapping into a deeper level understanding of their users. Coming up with solutions that go beyond using technology as the solution.

If we take a note from the basic needs of what Maslow is addressing here we can confidently say that once our basic needs are met we crave a deeper and richer experience. UX often only addresses a part of the experience. As companies build products that tune into our psychological needs, the industry is evolving to take a more holistic approach to the design experience, creating design that is intentional and intuitive.


At Elevator Up we take on this approach to provide insight that does not stop with the user. We firmly believe in making meaningful experience whether that is tapping into our human need for self-actualization or fulfilling the need to improve the cognitive function. As always give us a shout we would love to chat more or just listen to your story!

  • Justin Heuss- Business Development at Elevator Up

Ethics is a key differentiator.

tumblr_o6nnz8glgm1tubinno1_1280Let’s be honest, 2016 has been a pretty tough year. In review, we have lost some amazing people: Sharon Jones, Prince, Gene Wilder, Muhammed Ali, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher and even Kenny Baker, known for playing the original R2D2.  And the list goes on, not to mention other upheavals in the political climate both at home and abroad. Then came the holidays and I was hopeful to hear about the goodwill toward men(humankind)

You may have heard that Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, announced that all of its global profits from Black Friday would go to organizations supporting the environment, such as “grassroots organizations working in local communities to protect our air, water, and soil for future generations.” Quite a generous promise to underfunded organizations.

Patagonia was only expecting two million dollars in profits on that day, but they blew that forecast out of the water. In fact, they brought in ten million dollars in sales from the post-holiday event. Way to go, Patagonia. Not only do you have offer stellar maternity/paternity leave benefits to your employees, affordable onsite childcare and have a 100% return rate of mom’s coming back to work after maternity leave, you also donated 10 million for the environment!

“There will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

This lead me to do more research on how ethics can impact business and if that impact is measurable. I dug into what The Ethisphere® Institute was doing and thought this is perfect!

If you don’t know  The Ethisphere® Institute is a Scottsdale, Arizona-based organization that defines and measures corporate ethical standards, recognizes companies that excel, and promotes best practices in corporate ethics.

They created this impressive infographic showing how ethics is the measurable differentiator. As you can see from the graphic how their 2016 honorees (131 business from around the world including Xerox,3M, Cisco, Starbucks and MasterCard) performed against S&P 500 in 2015.


What this brings to light and is a great reminder for us when we design, build and sell is that we have a choice to do what is right. As my good friend Dumbledore said, “There will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

It is my hope that companies see the value of ethics, not only because you should do what is right, but because it is a measurable differentiator. Speaking of differentiators, if you are looking at your own company and feeling like your competitive advantage is still gray, just give us a shout because we are really good at identifying it with you.

Justin Heuss- Business Development at Elevator Up

Let’s Geek Out!

I am not alone when I say we love geeking out over all the things at Elevator Up. This comes in many forms such as Google’s announcement of products, (Check out our Instagram, the team really got into it) to ideas of being goat farmers in Iceland (ahem- Amelie & Jim, I am talking about you.)

When Aaron was in St. Louis we had lots of chats on how we can grow our company.  One of those chats leads to a rant about how science fiction is an awesome medium to communicate ideas, not only ideas that progress a story but also have an impact in our world today. Boom! Nerd card is on the table. I became extremely fascinated by this concept back in high school when we were reading Lord of the Flies. I still remember Mr. VanZanten teaching us about macrocosm and microcosm – it was incredible! William Golding’s analysis of the world and how WWII impacted him still resonates with me today.

It’s hard not to see what this genre has done for our society from William Gibson’s book in 1984 “Neuromancer” which predicted cyberspace and computer hackers, (I know, right?! Mind blown)

to one of the creators of the genre itself Jules Verne who wrote a book in 1865 “From the Earth to the Moon.” It’s not hard to see that this topic is getting more traction from universities having courses in technocultural studies that started in 2012.

MIT Media Lab takes it a step further using classic and modern elements of science fiction to create functional prototypes. There are classes like “Science Fiction to Science Fabrication” where students make robot arms like in Star Wars, to a “Sensory Fiction” class where students learn to create an “immersive reading experience” using lights, sounds, sensors, and even a wearable. The wearable gets hotter and lights get brighter if the main character was at, say, a beach. It could also vibrate in a pattern similar to a heartbeat to simulate the character’s heartbeat in the story during intense or relaxing scenes.

We all love a great story, especially at Elevator Up! Our Slack channel is filled with articles on the aforementioned topics. That’s why we love working with businesses to learn what their story is and how we can help them with digital transformation. We geek out with excitement to develop an experience for their story.

Tell us your story and send us your thoughts! I said before we are giddy with excitement to help.

Until next time,

Justin Heuss, Business Development

Originally posted on

Interview with TeamGeek

*Originally posted on Elevator Up’s blog

I just joined the Elevator Up team not too long ago and, I am not going to lie, this team is top notch! We have people from all walks of life and I am so proud to be part of a team that is passionate with what they create for our customers.

Now be patient with me because I started with this idea of what the actual heck is “Biz Dev” or business development? Is it just a fancy name for a sales person? When I turn to the “interwebz”  Wikipedia defines it as this:

“Business development comprises a number of tasks and processes generally aiming at developing and implementing growth opportunities within and between organizations. It is a subset of the fields of business, commerce, and organizational theory. Business development is the creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.”

Well, that makes sense, but what does this look like for our industry and/or Elevator Up? I took to the streets or, rather, my good friends around the globe, to ask them what this looks like for their ventures/business. This will be a series of posts to better understand business development and  how we define this for our team.

I ventured to my Twitter friends and got ahold of Ryan Brüssow at Teamgeek to see what this role looks like for him and his team in South Africa. Here is our conversation about business development and some insight into their story!

What does “business development” mean to TeamGeek?

At Teamgeek, we have quite a different approach to business and clients. In our 7 year adventure, we’ve never pitched for work. Instead, we’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing brands and normally get approached directly. Growth has been more organic for us and not something we’ve pursued aggressively.

Our focus is working with forward-thinking companies where we can add real value instead of just chasing the next cheque. I’ve learned a lot about having the right structure for growth in business, but it’s never been a top of mind focus area for me.

When times are good, we roll with the punches and enjoy it for as long as it lasts. When times are tough, we buckle down and look for opportunities where we can make quick gains to restore stability.  As an entrepreneur, I believe you need to do whatever it takes to make it work. You’ll have good times and hard times. This is the game, the true entrepreneurs learn to adapt quickly and pivot when necessary.

What do you do to keep up with industry trends and what tools do you use to help with this role?

At Teamgeek we have a very collaborative environment. We use Slack and it’s normally flooded with inspiration and the odd “giphy”. From a marketing perspective and positioning, we’ve never really focussed on trends and buzzwords. We can do anything, or so we believe at least 🙂

What do you do especially well?

Ambivalent to say the least 🙂  I’m self-taught and the only geek without a degree at Teamgeek, which is pretty weird and exciting at the same time. I get to work with very smart kids and I add value by being an objective perspective in an otherwise overqualified space. I take care of user experience and interface design. My Bulgarian business partners (Ilian and Andrei) take care of our development and app development departments respectively.

We have a culture of developing great software from the ground up. We steer clear of quick fixes and drag-and-drop frameworks. We also put a lot of emphasis on human-centered design and spend a great deal of time improving user journeys and ease of use.

What are some mistakes you have learned from while growing your business or doing business development?

Take your time. Enjoy the journey of building your business. When you set out to grow too fast you end with big gaps in areas that could cost you reputation and clients. Work IN your business from 9 am-5 pm and AT your business from 7pm-12am. When we started out a very big global soft drinks brand approached us to help them with UX for their self-help portal. We were very excited! Back then this project would have covered overheads for a year!

A close friend and mentor convinced me not to take on the project and after being really pissed off and demotivated by his words I decided not to. Today I look back and thank him for his mentorship and helping me understand growth. Hire the right people, never lower standards when hiring no matter how badly you need people.

How do you get your customers and future customers involved with your company’s culture/vision?

We’re a diverse bunch of geeks. We have Asians, Bulgarians, Persians, a Tswana, some Afrikaners and a bunch of Brits! We share a collaborative environment with no cubicles and offices, so we all share in each other’s views and ideologies. We respect each other and we’re a family.

I believe this shines through whenever a new client comes in for a coffee.   We also don’t employ account managers, which means our clients get to work directly with the geeks involved in their projects. This creates synergy, good collaboration and accountability.

Any advice for someone new to business development in the industry?

When I was still a corporate grunt I started following some creative agency dudes on Twitter. I needed to understand the thinking and kind of things these people looked for in partners, affiliates etc. I started attending some events and conferences and started mingling with people who worked in the industry to get a better understanding of things. This gave me the confidence to approach the right people.

Shortly after launching Teamgeek I approached these agencies and immediately started working with them, developing overflow campaign websites and stuff like that. This gave me the insight and understanding of quality expectations and so I set out to find my own clients.  It probably sounds much easier here than it really was, but I believe if you have talent and can somehow get it in front of the right people, you’ll have queues of brands at your front door.

Any other thoughts you have on the topic?

If you’re keen to start a business, you have to do it for the right reasons. Don’t start a business because you want to get rich (quick) or think that you’ll have more time to do other stuff. The truth is; working for yourself is 10 times more work and 50 times more stressful than working for a boss.

In my case, I believe I’m unemployable and therefore I can never see myself working for someone with less ambition and passion for business. Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t. Thanks for the opportunity to share my views.



Thanks, Ryan and Teamgeek team for the chat and good luck on your adventure! I can’t wait to see more of your work and how you tackle new problems. Stay tuned for more stories from around the globe of how companies are growing their passion/ventures and how we at Elevator Up understand our own process!

Do you want to share your story or have thoughts on business development?

Catch me on Twitter @justinheuss or email me at