Behind every startup is a story (sometimes two or three!) and HootBoard is no different. Today we talk to Founder and CEO Satyajeet Shahade about his background, how he got his start, and his vision for HootBoard as a company and a team.
How did you get your start?
I’m originally from India and I come from a modest background in Mumbai. I studied Mechanical Engineering in India but came to Philadelphia to get my masters in Information Sciences at Drexel University. After Drexel, I used my skills to help large financial services institutions understand their risk exposures through the use of big-data. Eventually, I made enough money to quit the comfortable corporate job, to really focus on what challenges I wanted to solve. I’d stayed in the greater Philadelphia area and started to raise my family here so it made sense that this is also where I would start my company.
How did you get the idea for HootBoard?
After I’d quit my job, I found myself revisiting my old haunts to help discover my next step. I was back on Drexel’s campus and a challenge I had faced back in school hit me again.
When I first started at Drexel, I ran out of money in the first 3 weeks. I paid my tuition, the rent and that was it. I desperately needed to get a job and my roommate at the time told me that if I was really serious about finding work I should print 100 copies of my resume and walk building to building around the campus. This wasn’t that long ago but how things have changed! Anyway, that’s what I did. As I walked around campus, trying to find work, I realized that I had no clue what each department did or what was going on in each of the individual buildings – there was little way for the average person to find their way.
This came back to me many years later and I saw that the same issue was still present on Drexel’s campus: what was going on in each of this buildings and what did these departments do exactly? The difference was that now I was in a place to do something about it and so was the technology. I figured that technology had advanced far enough that every building, every space should have the ability to showcase the best of what they do in a digital-first manner.
That’s how HootBoard was born.
What defines your entrepreneurial style?
I would define myself as a visionary tinkerer.
On the one end I like to chase and create a much better version of what the future will look like. But time and experience have taught me that big changes come with small steps and tremendous persistence.
At HootBoard I drive myself and the rest of our team to try small things to test if they can help us change things for better.
What do you look for in your team?
The number one quality of a HootBoard team member is that they believe they have a role to play in creating a future. They like what they do here at HootBoard and see their actions today as beneficial to not only themselves but to society in general.
In other words, we look for team members who believe in themselves and see HootBoard as a platform to affect positive change.
Looking back, what would you change about your first year in business?
Looking back, I wish I had talked to more number of people about the idea and refined it more prior to jumping in. We refined as we went but there was definitely room to get that out of the way up front if we’d been strategic about asking for feedback.
Secondly, we’ve learned that a version of the original idea was mostly spot on but we were tentative with the idea and took a safer route at first. We weren’t aggressive in pursuing our original vision and so it took us time to get to where we needed to – ironically, where we always knew we needed to be. If I could go back, I would tell myself and my team to believe in our vision and to be more aggressive about pursuing it from the start. Don’t play it safe.
What is your biggest strength as a team/company?
I consider the diversity of the HootBoard team as its biggest strength. Our team members are not just ethnically diverse but come from different countries as well as different educational and work backgrounds. In spite of that, they believe in the same vision of the future which gives us an opportunity to come up with solutions that haven’t been thought of before.
As a result, HootBoard has broken ground in multiple areas of in-real-life engagement of people and HootBoard screens are used for uses that are not necessarily addressed by any of our competition.
What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
I love having the freedom to change things for better. It’s essentially a license to try things, fail, and try again until you make things happen.
No other job or profession would allow me to make so many mistakes and live another day to learn from them.
What company or idea there are you most envious of?
Tesla – as most entrepreneurs are I believe. I admire Elon Musk as an entrepreneur and I am amazed by his vision and persistence to create things for the future sustainability of the human race.
All entrepreneurs can use this outlook in defining problems and opportunities for their companies to tackle. While it’s okay to create companies as quick flip opportunities, companies that endure are built with a goal to make humanity better.
Now you know how HootBoard got its start. We hope you’ll follow along for the next chapter!