Mobi grew out of several labs at MIT in 2012 and has evolved to become a B2B solutions provider within the global travel industry, solving complex routing and planning challenges for large enterprises while integrating with existing products.
How does a CEO stay level-headed?
When you’re building a business, things feel more significant in the moment than they are in the grand scheme. You may feel like your company is dead if you don’t sign a particular client, but if you really internalized that, you might freeze up or make mistakes. In the journey of a startup, don’t let the highs take you too high and the lows too low!
Being an equestrian shaped you.
A big part of my childhood was riding horses. For an equestrian program to be world-class, you have to focus on the little things, the microsuccesses. At competitions, you see the results of your hard work. With horses, you’re always trying to make it to the Olympics. There are things you can control and others you can’t, but you don’t go in with a skeptical mind. You outline a clear plan and going to execute it. The same is true for startups. There are hundreds of ways we could fail, but the path I see most clearly is the path to success.
Tell us how Mobi grew out of an MIT project.
I founded and led the Vehicle Design Summit. We built prototypes with the goal of only 5% of the toxicity of the Prius. There is no more complicated supply chain than the automotive industry, and not many more complex engineering systems than a vehicle. We looked around the world for embedded knowledge from experts: great specific solutions that sometimes don’t make it out of the lab. We built a network of 21 teams and took care of fundraising – so very much like a startup.
How did Mobi turn into a business?
Large supplier companies have spent all their time developing exceptional physical assets, but don’t have the same sophistication in the digital realm. So we saw the opportunity to provide a digital experience to large enterprises that had a high level of detail and human touch. And we had the optimal technology to deliver that digital experience.
What have you learned about building a team?
I thought back to the project I led at MIT and asked myself why over 400 people rallied so enthusiastically. I realized they were at the intersection of “you’re doing something challenging” and “you’re really good at it.” These are the people who succeed and solve the problem. The fundamental essence at MIT is that everybody is different than you and everybody is smarter than you in what they do. So when someone tells you they’ve solved a problem, you trust them, and when they can’t solve a problem, you think “okay, that’s probably not your core area.” Let everyone be the expert where they are, and talk openly about areas where they are not.
Advice for first-time founders?
You want a team that doesn’t just care but really knows. If they just care, they’ll be emotionally invested but you’ll fail because you can’t really solve the problem. Find people who love what they do and are masters at it.