Dale Willis, Curate Solutions

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Dale Willis, co-founder and CTO, Curate Solutions.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

My co-founder and I started Curate from nothing a year and a half ago. Curate’s software scans through public meeting agendas and minutes from cities, counties, and school board websites and sends its customers weekly reports of leads and business intelligence. Curate’s customers then utilize this information to grow their businesses.

It has been incredibly challenging to build something from scratch, all the while trying to find the best way to communicate a complicated product’s value to potential customers. Having said that, when the wheels finally start moving and you get a chance to step back and see sales and customer success stories, there isn’t anything else like it.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

Locally someone who I admire is Joe Kirgues, the co-founder of gener8tor. Joe is an amazing individual who is fun to be around, and he is a visionary thinker who’s always willing to help solve difficult problems. He understands what it takes to start out with an idea on a napkin and develop it into a thriving business. Outside of the local community, I would have to say Elon Musk, for being someone who doesn’t take no for an answer, and for being someone who understands both the 30,000-foot view, as well as the small details.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Getting accepted into the gener8tor startup accelerator program in February 2016, which has a less than 1% acceptance rate. Prior to that, I was working on my PhD in computer science at UW–Madison and dabbling in starting a company. Getting into gener8tor was the day I realized I could focus on starting a company, and dabble in research instead. I find it incredibly rewarding to see customers using what you have built firsthand, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Everything you do is part of your story; don’t be afraid to take risks and add chapters to your personal story. When things get difficult, focus on what is really important: your health, family, friends, and what makes you passionate enough to get out of bed in the morning. If you focus on that, everything else will fall into place.



What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

Dane County, and specifically Madison, is an incredible place that I couldn’t be happier to call home. It is host to an amazing university that provides an endless supply of diverse intellectuals and a great talent pool for businesses. It provides tons of outdoor activities (I’m an avid biker and sailor). And there is a close-knit community of startups and small businesses that are willing to help each other out. Also, I love Madison for being weird — when I walk around Trader Joe’s in my bike shoes, I know no one is staring at me.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I’m split between two: First of all, I’m a professionally trained chef. Before I started computer engineering at UW–Madison, I spent years working in kitchens and attended a formal culinary arts program. I love making gourmet meals for friends, family, and co-workers. Second, my wife and I have our own version of Fixer Upper going on in our home as we renovate our 100-year-old house ourselves. After working with computers most of the day, it’s very rewarding to swing a hammer and see the fruits of your labor.

What are your guilty pleasures?

I actually really enjoy the opportunity to build and iterate over a product that our customers use every day. Being part of a small team, we have the ability to hear a need and then start building a fix that afternoon. This sounds crazy, but my guilty pleasure is getting the opportunity to have uninterrupted time to build something incredible. I thrive off showing new things to people that they couldn’t build themselves.

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