From 2010 to 2016, I was responsible for the Residential Lending business for a bank based outside of Boston. In 2013, Mike Tassone joined me to help run the group. During that time, we were responsible for closing more than $11B worth of home loans becoming one of the top lenders in the country.
So how is it that two former bankers were able to leave a technologically challenged industry, launch a consumer facing technology start-up and become MassChallenge Finalists in less than 4 months?
Well, none if it happens without the city of Boston.
Admittedly, I am no expert when it comes to evaluating the other tech hubs in the world, but based on my experience in Boston, I don’t believe there is a better place in the world to start a company. In my opinion, the people, companies and universities that make up the Boston ecosystem are second to none.
To support this argument, I share with you our personal experience with three parties that have had a positive impact helping us to launch Own Up.
At the beginning of 2016, shortly after Mike and I left our jobs to start Own Up, we competed to participate in RaizLabs incubator, XLR8. Although we were in our infancy, Greg Raiz and his team saw enough in us and in the market we are aiming to disrupt (home financing), that he gave us a chance. Trust me when I say, we weren’t accepted because of our pitch, which we look back on as embarrassing to say the least. With acceptance into XLR8, we were given access to their talented employees and their amazing office atop 50 Milk St.
Think about this. We were two guys who had never started a technology company, we were a company for less than a month and we were given access to office space and world-class mentorship!?! This doesn’t happen just anywhere in the world.
As Mike and I launched Own Up, we engaged with many smart people that gave us candid feedback on our business, and there is no better place to find smart people with great ideas than at Harvard. In our early days, we were lucky enough to spend time with HBS professors, Ethan Bernstein, Steve Rogers and Julia Austin among others.
In addition to these helpful meetings, we applied and were accepted to compete in the Harvard Real Estate New Venture Competition. This gave us a chance to pitch our business against start-ups from across the country. After competing against some fantastic companies, we were fortunate to win, which helped validate our approach and put wind in our sails.
As is the case with any city or company, people are always the most valuable asset. Boston is filled with great people and the list of people that have given freely of their time and have supported us is too long to mention. However, there is one person that we think represents what is truly great about this incredible ecosystem: Brent Grinna.
Brent is the Founder and CEO of Evertrue, a successful company he started and has grown here in Boston. After being introduced to Brent through a mutual friend, he agreed to meet with us to listen to our story.
After hearing our pitch and relating with our mission to transform home financing to benefit the borrower, Brent became an evangelist and began helping us in invaluable ways. He has introduced us to some great people and advised us on many facets of our business.
Because of help from the likes of Brent, Harvard, RaizLabs and countless others in Boston, we are proud to announce that we have been selected as Finalists in the 2016 class of MassChallenge, the world’s largest and one of the most successful accelerators. This is an achievement we are proud of and we are honored to be associated with another great Boston organization.
Our goal now is to continue to grow our company and to someday be considered one of the amazing companies located here in Boston. It will be a long road with many barriers, but one thing we know for sure is that there is no better city to be doing this in.