The Rise of Intrepid and a Look at the Entrepreneur Behind It All
Mark Kasdorf has created himself a successful career in technology. The founder and CEO of Intrepid, a mobile design and development firm, Kasdorf’s life wasn’t always focused on technology, though. Quite the opposite really, as he grew up in upstate New York, just outside of Syracuse, working on a farm.
Working on a farm helped instill Kasdorf’s strong work ethic, which he carried with him into Hamilton College, where he worked twenty hours per week on top of excelling as a student, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Economics. Post Hamilton, Kasdorf came to Boston to attend Boston University School of Law in 2006.
It was there, during law school, that Kasdorf would enter the world of entrepreneurship by starting a software company in the home automation space (think: NEST). While he was able to raise a small round of venture capital money the company didn’t go as planned.
“It was a really big idea that needed a lot of money, ”Kasdorf told me. “At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t know what I needed to know. The experience was invaluable, but I eventually realized it wasn’t going to work.”
In 2010 Kasdorf shut that company down and began his search for a career as a lawyer. During that process, Kasdorf started his second company, a consulting business with one teammate working with him. With the iPhone a brand new product at the time, Kasdorf was able to secure a project building out an iOS app.
Then came a moment of truth… Kasdorf was faced with two options – accept an offer from a law firm or take on another development project, which would require him to bring on another engineer, and go full-time himself. Kasdorf reminisced the moment:
“My wife and I just had our first child and I remember coming home and her saying, ‘Pick the law firm offer or draw a salary from Intrepid. I’m quitting my job on Friday.' She told me she’d support either decision, and has been amazingly supportive through the entire ride of Intrepid.”
Soon after that conversation, in August of 2010, Intrepid was born with a $250,000 project on the books. To this day, Kasdorf hasn’t raised any outside funding for Intrepid.
When Mobile exploded in 2011, Intrepid grew with it.
“We went from 4 people to 15 and our revenue went up 3X in 2011. We only focused on iOS at the time, which ultimately was the right decision. It slowed our business at first, but once the iPhone took off, we were viewed as the experts in the space in Boston.”
Kasdorf made his first payroll using his home equity line of credit, but the Cambridge-based mobile design company has seen significant growth since its inception, basically doubling in revenue and headcount every year. 2013, Kasdorf tells me, was the slowest growth year, but a key reason for that was the launch of a side company, Timbre, a location-based live music discovery app that enabled users to find live shows in their area.
While the end result was positive, Kasdorf would do things differently next time around:
“This was another major learning experience for me. It was very difficult to run the agency, while also building and running a new company. While I don’t have plans for another spinout, I’d certainly do it differently if the scenario arises again.”
Unlike Intrepid, Timbre was a funded venture, with $400,000 injected from Accomplice (Atlas at the time) and Boston Seed Capital. Timbre was eventually acquired by Seatwave (now a part of Ticketmaster).
Earlier this year, Intrepid expanded its operations, opening an office in New York City, which is continuing the firm’s track record of growth.
“It’s been a great year in New York,” Kasdorf told me. “We have 2 big anchor clients, including one of the largest radio stations in the country, WNYC.” We’re on track to do more revenue in NYC this year than we did at Intrepid in 2011.
Kasdorf anticipates a west coast office (not in SF) opening sometime in 2016.
WINNING THE TALENT BATTLE
In the ongoing clash for top tier talent in Boston (and beyond), Intrepid has found success in the recruiting game by implementing an in-house training program that has resulted in roughly 30% of the company’s workforce.
“In an industry like mobile that is growing so fast, hiring is one of the biggest challenges out there,” Kasdorf said. “Our apprentice program brings in recent grads and teaches them for 3 months, giving them hands-on experience in our field.”
The program allows Intrepid an opportunity to train and hand pick the best talent from each class, which range from 12 to 25 trainees. Now just over three years old, the Intrepid bootcamp has a dedicated employee running and growing the program, which Kasdorf admits is a key component to his firm’s growth and success.
With no signs of slowing down and a funnel of engineering talent in place, Kasdorf says one of his biggest (and new) challenges is hiring on the sales and marketing side of the business, where he expects to add about 5-8 full-timers over the next 12 months.
Kasdorf’s rapid growth in Boston and subsequent move to NYC gives him a unique perspective on the two oft-compared startup markets.
“What I love most about the Boston ecosystem is its balance. Our short time in New York and my research into the west coast has shown me quite a bit about Boston. And key to it all is the balance this city has when it comes to the four main things I feel a great ecosystem needs: Money, mentors, entrepreneurs and talent. Boston has them all.”