Notes From the Startup Underground
- by Matthew Brodsky
“It’s so much easier to get started,” says Mark Hirsch, W’88, of entrepreneurship today, “but that doesn’t mean it’s easier to be successful.“
He reflects back on the late ’80s, when there was almost an ‘”underground” of entrepreneurial activity. Back then, if you told people you were an entrepreneur, they assumed it was because you hadn’t found your true calling yet—or that you got laid off from your full-time job.
“There’s such an incredible ecosystem to empower and support entrepreneurs, and the public mindset has changed completely,” Hirsch says of the 2010s. “’Entrepreneur’ is a title now that everyone appreciates at some level.”
By the time Hirsch started undergraduate studies at Wharton, he had multiple entrepreneurial successes, including the founding of a software business (which he sold two years later when he was 16). On campus, Hirsch couldn’t fight the bug. He started a typing business in his freshman year because he had one of the only personal computers, an original Macintosh. At the end of his junior year, he started and operated a retail store, which began as a project for one of his Entrepreneurial Management classes. Financed by family and some Wharton friends, he sold the business a year after graduation with a nice return for his investors.
His current startup, CreativeWorx, has been going for two and half years and focuses on increasing productivity, improving decision-making and boosting employee job satisfaction. The company’s data capture platform takes data directly out of a company’s employee workflow, while they work, to automate productivity.
“We’re a data play,” he says. “Companies can no longer compete without real-time, accurate data … and that’s what we provide.”
CreativeWorx’s first solution built on its platform is a service that automatically creates accurate, flexible timesheets. This enables more accurate billing, better resource planning and client satisfaction.
One market ripe for transformation is the creative services industry (such as design, PR and ad agencies). When interviewing agency senior leadership, Hirsch learned that the industry is challenged by late timesheets that are often 20 to 50 percent inaccurate. Such bad data is like “putting handcuffs and blindfolds” on these business leaders, Hirsch says.
“How can executives successfully compete under this scenario? They’re running at 15 percent margins, struggling to gain one to two points … with virtually no real-time data to improve their resource planning, client negotiations and overall profitability. That’s insane.”
CreativeWorx is now at an inflection point, Hirsch says. What is it? Stay tuned.
Hirsch plans to become a Wharton Blog Network contributor, and he will share his insights from running this particular startup—as well as from his more than two decades since he joined the entrepreneurship underground.
“I’m looking forward to using this blog to help those just starting out. To mentor. To be a bridge builder,” he says.