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Obsorb: Lessons Learned – How to Be Taken Seriously As A Young Entrepreneur

December 18, 2012 • Arch Grant News

When I started Obsorb, I was 21 years old and had just dropped out of college. I knew what I wanted to do. The problem was I am not a programmer, had no funding, and no co-founders. Not exactly the perfect scenario for a technology company’s birth.

Over the past year I convinced two engineers to join as co-founders, and raised $110,000 from investors to get things going. We’re now about to partner with MetaLab, a well-known Canadian tech company, on a second product.

Whether its capital contributions from investors or convincing smart people to join your team, a big part of being an entrepreneur is convincing people to join your cause. So how do you get people to take you seriously?

Want to convince investors to give you money? Have a history of starting and following through on things. 

Obsorb’s first $20,000 check came from a successful entrepreneur I became friends with over several attended conferences. He got to know me, and what I had done previously. Between the ages of 17 and 21 I worked for a high end architecture firm and then started a niche rendering firm of my own. I also started an e-commerce performance parts website and dabbled in iPhone apps. Bottom line: I had products and services that I could point to and say “I did that”. When I pitched him using only a mockup of the idea, he said yes and wrote the check. This was over breakfast at the Treasure Island hotel in Las Vegas. Good times.

You need a history of creating and following through on projects you start. Investors aren’t as big risk takers as you might think. They want to know you can execute and the best way to prove that is to have a history.

Want to convince smart people to join your fledgling startup? Get it off the ground first. 

It was 7 months after I founded the company before my co-founder and CTO, João Gradim joined. João has a masters in software engineering (read: he’s awesomely technical). We first met during the Start-Up Chile program in Santiago, Chile. I was there for Obsorb and he was serving as CTO for a Portuguese startup. At that time, all of Obsorb’s code was being written by contractors. I knew the company needed a technical co-founder to take things to the next level. When it came time to ask João to join, I was able to show him what we had already built up to that point. This was critical. Maybe it was the social proof of having investors backing us, or seeing code had already been written; either way, I’m confident he would have declined if we’d have had neither.

Looking back and connecting the dots, it was a progression to get where we are. Too many people want to jump to the end without understanding they need to get specific pieces in place first. Since every situation is different, I can’t identify those for you. Instead, identify what you want, and then work backwards.

People look at what you’ve done, when predicting what you may achieve. By having a portfolio of past work, you’re more likely to get support with future endeavors. And once you’ve achieved that, the world is your oyster.

Marshall Haas

Marshall Haas, 22, is the co-founder & CEO of Obsorb, Inc. His other works include 18th.meConnected Bedding, AllRendered, and the STL Startup Map. You can follow him on twitter @MarshallHaas.