Solving Problems – Build a startup that helps other startups

David Mandell – Solving Problems – How to build a startup that helps other startups.

So PivotDesk is actually a pretty interesting story, it’s my fourth startup first of all, so I’ve been in the startup world for quite awhile. When I started PivotDesk I was mentoring for a lot of startups so I was a part of the TechStars network as a mentor since they started and just helping a lot of people round Boulder and New York that I knew and I probably involve with either as a mentor or a friend or an advisor to somewhere over 150 startups for the past ten years and I just kept seeing the same stupid pain points over and over again like you get a couple of really smart energetic people trying to build something that can potentially changed the world and they should be completely focus on building that business, it’s really freaking hard to do a startup and if you want to do it great you have to be complete focus on doing that.

I saw these great people trying to build these businesses and while they should be completely focus on doing that business they end up spending twenty five to thirty percent of their time just trying to figure out where to put it and it was just so stupid and I saw it so many times;

They emailed friends and they check Craigslist and they talk ‘hey can we crash for a couple a months’ cause, you know, they don’t know how business is going to be three months from now, three years from now which is usually the smallest lease you can get, and it wasn’t until I was actually doing some consulting for a larger company, who had shared their office with another big company, and I was sitting next to the CFO at the time, and he was miserable, and everyday he was looking at that space trying to figure out what to do. He was talking to his landlord, because the landlord is still getting paid and he’d talked to brokers and brokers really say they’d help but they really wouldn’t because it wasn’t what they really did. It was a different process for them, the transaction cost was small, the effort involved was high so they really weren’t giving a lot of attention and at least once a week the CEO would walk into his office and say hey what’s going on with that space and he was literally miserable.

And since I was working with a bunch of startups at the time I say, well you know, I could put five or six companies in there tomorrow. They’re not going to be able to sign a sublease or long-term anything because they don’t know how big they’re going to be three months from now but they will gladly pay you every month for the space, they just need a good place to work and he looks at me and says ‘God I would love to do that, I would love to have these companies but there’s just no way I can deal with all the bullshit involved. I can’t be running around chasing cheques, I can’t be worried about credit risk, I can’t be worried about who’s suppose to be here, who’s not suppose to be here, who’s leaving stuff in the refrigerator on Friday, that’s just not my job.

And as he was talking to me I realized I can build all that, that’s not brain surgery, right? and I also realized if I can make the CFO happy if I can build all the tools that he needed to make it dead simple to easily market, manage and monetize his excess space, I can find homes for all these startups and small companies that have no place to go in a way that made both sides happy.

So that’s really were PivotDesk started and I took a pretty long time to get going because you know of course, I’m not a real estate person, so the first thing I did was talk to real estate people on how this could work and literally every one of them said you can’t do that because it’s not what they do.

Luckily I didn’t believe them and I kept pounding away and doing my research and figured out that I actually can do it and launched it about a year and a half ago and now we’re in six cities, we’ve got hundreds of companies and customers and people write us every month saying ‘you have no idea how much you helped us this is incredible’, so that’s why we do what we do.

We’re trying to help entrepreneur build their business and we do that by finding them room to grow and everyday we’re just helping companies get started and get going and you know it’s a great feeling.

I mean I realized pretty early on that, you know, I’m not the smartest person in the room and if I can find a way to help really smart people do awesome things then that’s a great business and that’s really what we do at PivotDesk.