Massachusetts is a vibrant hub of consumer tech startup activity as well as at-scale companies with seasoned executives who’ve learned lessons at each step of the way. In the interest of paying-it-forward and supporting the next generation of consumer tech leader, we asked six consumer tech CEOs – Mohamad Ali of Carbonite, Colin Angle of iRobot, Steve Kaufer of TripAdvisor, Niraj Shah of Wayfair, Sheila Marcelo of Care.com, and Jason Robins of DraftKings – to share their advice for those following in their footsteps.
MARCELO: Don’t wait. Get out and talk to other entrepreneurs, executives, and investors. Find a mentor who can give you critical feedback and advice. Be prepared for a lot of hard work and a long term investment, but if you stay true to your passion, you’ll enjoy every minute of it!
KAUFER: You want to really know your market and be sure that there is real demand or need for the product or service you want to sell. If you’re lucky enough to be the first one to market, you will have a head start you can take advantage of. But like most entrepreneurs, there are many variations of what you are offering, and then you want to make sure that you are doing it better. If you believe in your product or service, then be ambitious, surround yourself with smart people, fail fast and learn from your mistakes.
ROBINS: From the moment you start your company, it is a race. If your idea is a good one, you are likely not the only one pursuing it, so don’t ever slow down. Specific to Massachusetts, I would encourage entrepreneurs to take advantage of internship and co-op programs that exist at many of the universities. This is a great way to get things done faster and less expensively in the early stages.
SHAH: The right team makes all the difference. Hire for intelligence, skills and drive, not for industry experience. Smart people can transfer their knowledge and expertise from B2B to B2C. No matter what type of business you have, it all boils down to having the best team and working the smartest and fastest.
ANGLE: Go for it. Be patient. Consumer technology companies take time to grow. It is important to focus not only on inventing and showcasing new technologies, but also on understanding what consumers really need and bringing products that meet those needs to market, and on a sustainment strategy to continuously improve and advance. This is one of the reasons iRobot has found success. We have focused on creating robots that are practical, useful and have enduring value. People can use our products every day.
ROBINS: There are a number of great resources for young entrepreneurs to network, raise seed funding, and everything else you need to start a company. The startup community is unbelievably helpful and everyone is bound by a common desire to drive consumer tech growth and innovation in the Commonwealth. Many people will give you their time simply because they are excited about the idea of you building something great in Massachusetts.
ALI: Come to Massachusetts! We have a significant ecosystem of consumer retail companies, consumer tech companies, academic institutions, accessible mentors and talent that creates a dynamic environment for success.