Thursday Jun 21, 2012 by Jesse Waites - Plate Techtonics: When Unstoppable Forces Meet Immovable Objects
I met Mary-Alice Brady a few months back at the Venture Cafe. She had a table set up and was raising awareness for her startup MosaicHUB. A few nights later I had a free moment and went to the website to see what it was all about. I reached out to her to talk about MosaicHUB to the VentureFizz community and she said she would love to. After setting up a time, I put on "Lucky Man" by The Verve on my iPhone, hopped on the Red Line, and made a trip deeper into Cambridge to stop by her office.
As we walked out of General Catalyst's office in Harvard Square, where Mary-Alice does part-time consulting work so she can continue to bootstrap her company, she told me about her decision to make the leap into entrepreneurship. After practicing law for over 10 years and advising startups, she found that she was answering the same questions and providing the same referrals again and again. “With all the technology out there”, she thought,”isn't there a more efficient process?” I agreed. In working with numerous startups, I provide the same exact support. While having these personal references is important, she told me she believes that leveraging technology to increase the ease of collaboration amongst members of the entrepreneur community is important so busy entrepreneurs can spend more time focusing on building their business. With mosaicHUB, Mary-Alice is building an online community so that entrepreneurs, service providers, advisers and investors can easily share advice, experiences and recommendations.
|After getting tea at Dado in Harvard Square (My secret writing hangout when I'm working on this very column), she told me about the struggle to find the right name for her new business, a common issue many entrepreneurs face. I myself even have a small side hustle helping startups pick a cool name and securing the domain name they need. A few months after she started her business, still without a name, she took a trip to Delos, Greece, a small island housing ancient ruins for what was once a thriving merchant port.|
Mary-Alice proceeded to describe a mosaic she saw there. "You’d think that the early mosaics were in the homes of the wealthy members of the community, but they were actually found in the homes of the poor families. While the wealthy folks could afford gorgeous, colorful tapestries, the poorer members of the community had to be resourceful, so they would gather pieces of broken clay, stones and other scraps and meticulously put these pieces together to form an incredible mosaic." She then made a comparison between these resourceful members of the ancient Greek society with modern day entrepreneurs. "As entrepreneurs, we have to be resourceful to create something amazing. We have limited resources, small budgets, few people and with the enormous task of building something exceptional. We scrape together these limited resources to create our own great mosaic. And how can we do this even better? By relying on each other, our collective experiences, recommendations and advice. The HUB brings all these pieces together in one place. Hence, mosaicHUB."
On the walk back to General Catalyst, Mary-Alice received an email from one of her mosiacHUB members. He wanted to pass along the great news that he was selling his company to a large, reputable organization. This was just the exit he was hoping for. He was extremely thankful that mosaicHUB helped him throughout his first entrepreneurial journey. He explained how he joined mosaicHUB 3 years ago when he was working at a big company and had only an idea. He was working a 9 to 5 job and was miserable. He had thought about launching his own company for years, but didn't know where to start.
He met some of the mosaicHUB team members out at a networking event and joined the site. He initially used the site to just browse some useful resources, learning more about entrepreneurship. He then started asking questions, such as how to develop an idea, find a developer, get funding. He finally started to get the support and direction he needed to take the initial steps. He decided that bootstrapping his business was the right move initially, so he kept his day job and started his company on the side. He receive a lot of advice from other entrepreneurs and experts on mosaicHUB, such as how to first focus on understanding his target market, the problem and the need for the solution he wanted to offer. He found a business consultant on mosaicHUB who helped him better grasp the size of the market and put together a business plan.
After spending some time connecting with other members, he met a developer who really liked his idea and started helping him on the side as well. The business started growing and he gradually hired more help, got office space and expanded his reach. He posted a pitch video on mosaicHUB and got some valuable feedback. Most positive, but he also learned some things he needed to improve. While his growth accelerated, new challenges arose and he was thankful to the mosaicHUB community for their continued support and advice. Mary-Alice then turned to me with a smile and said "This is the exact reason why I started mosaicHUB."
I left inspired by the work Mary-Alice is doing and walked back to the subway with a spring in my step, happy that there are people out there that are committed to being a positive force in the world and helping others.
|Jesse Waites is an animal lover, writer, technology activist, Founder and CEO of PNTHR.com, and is on the MIT Enterprise Forum Innovation Series Planning Committee. You can usually find him walking his dog Finn in and around Boston or reading physical novels made out of actual paper in locally owned coffeeshops. He can be reached @JesseWaites on Twitter.|