Laying the foundation for a great startup: Q&A with Jim Robeson

 

Jim Robeson head shot

Jim Robeson is a 2013 alumnus of the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program. While in MBET, Jim built his company, PiinPoint— an online platform that enables businesses to find the best location for expansion. Now, just over a year after graduating from the program, PiinPoint has proven to be a game-changer for business owners. Conrad's Marketing and Communication's Manager, Amanda Watkins, sat down with Jim to catch up, and to talk to him about his experiences as a student in the MBET program.


Amanda Watkins (AW): So, let's get right to it, how did you learn about the Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology [MBET] and why did you decide to apply?

Jim Robeson (JR):  While doing an economic development certification program at Waterloo, an attendee told me about the MBET program. I was intrigued because I had come from an entrepreneurial family, and I had a dream of building my own business. MBET and Conrad spoke to my needs, it was what I was looking for.

AW: Talk to me about the impact of the MBET program on you and your career. Do any specific people, courses, or events come to mind?

JR: Nancy [Vanden Bosch]’s strategy classes were truly invaluable. I learned how to build a structure behind my idea.

BET 604 [New Technology-based Venture Creation] was also helpful. It allowed me the time to focus truly on the business and perfect the pitch, since I was forced to do the pitching. The whole concept of 604 was valuable, to have the ability to collaborate with others, create a joint venture, and bring on team members. It helped PiinPoint. I learned quickly what it’s like to work with other team members.

AW: What has been different about what you do now in your career as compared to pre-MBET.

JR: Career wise before, it was a 9-5 job. I was part of a core team, but in terms of building something, I was building policies, and advocating. I enjoyed doing it, but it was a constant uphill battle. I wasn’t creating enough change, and my passion was somewhere else.

Now, I don’t work. I am doing what I love. I put in more time, but it’s something I’m creating from the ground up. I am building something I love, I am building something I believe in. I’m passionate, I’m determined to make this work.

AW: Tell me about the successes in your career since graduating from MBET.  

Jim Robeson and Piinpoint co-founder, Adam Saunders at Y CombinatorJR: Following MBET, I applied to Creative Destruction Lab, and was accepted in Fall 2013. We entered the Velocity Garage in October 2013, and were accepted into Y Combinator  (YC) that November. PiinPoint won the Velocity Fund Finals in December 2013, and then attended YC. We hired several employees in January and have continued to build the team since.

PiinPoint now works with some of the largest retailers and real estate firms in the world.

AW: What advice would you give someone in the MBET program today?

JR: I would say to surround yourself with people who are going to help you accelerate your company. Get out of the building and speak to potential clients to find out if you have a business that is solving a pain point. No idea is a bad idea, but you need to truly believe in what you’re about to embark upon or else you’ve already failed.

About PiinPoint

Piinpoint logoPiinPoint is an online platform that enables businesses to find the best location for expansion. The software can also forecast future sales, identify competition and target markets, and generate detailed analytical reports for the suggested location. PiinPoint is the next generation in location intelligence software. 

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