Straight Up Startup…Featuring Mike Colosimo, CEO Of thrdPlace

Mike Colosimo is CEO of thrdPlace, a web and mobile platform that enables for-profits, non-profits and governments to measure, evaluate and maximize their community outreach. Working to create sustainable change by innovating on the intersection of environmental, social and economic challenges, Colosimo is a proven leader in both technical and creative environments.

He has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from the US Air Force Academy and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School. Prior to military service and co-founding the thrdPlace startup, he worked as an Urban Planner for the global consultancy firm, Buro Happold. He also runs a real estate investment fund focused on single family and small multi-family investments, and he’s a board member of a number of non-profits in and around Southern California.

An urban revitalization specialist, consultant and military veteran, Mike Colosimo took the time to talk with the Rackspace Startup Program about taking his diverse background and using that expertise to connect the needs and resources of community stakeholders focused on improving the places we live and work. What follows are Mike’s thoughts on how technology changes the landscape of physical communities around the world.

What is thrdPlace’s go to market strategy?
We started with a model to reach individuals to start projects in their local communities, but quickly found that to be a difficult strategy to execute. It’s just too expensive to reach a critical mass of people and difficult to convince them to start projects. So we shifted focus up stream to commercial businesses. And found much better success – and they reach more individuals with their messaging than we could have reached on our own and much faster!

Explain the business ethics philosophy at thrdPlace?
We are mission-driven company. thrdPlace was started to solve a problem both founders experienced in their own personal and professional lives. Our ethics are a reflection of the social nature of the business. We are very transparent with our customers, employees, investors and partners. Deciding what kind of company we were going to be was easy…there’s only one way to do it. If you’re not honest and transparent, then how can you expect anyone else to be?

What lessons were learned building your startup?

  • Everything takes longer and costs more than you think.
  • Talk is cheap – don’t count your chips until the deal is 100 percent done.
  • Pay it forward. It always comes back.

What challenges did thrdPlace run into?
Educating clients on problems/opportunities they didn’t know they had. When you are ahead of the curve – doing something other people are not, there is an element of education and convincing that has to happen – no matter how excited people/organizations get.

What business wins did you achieve?
Early customers, partnerships and revenue.

What best practices did you incorporate into thrdPlace?
We build our platform functionality very iteratively. Build a little, let people use it, learn from what they use and build some more. We’ve also waited to make big builds until we have a customer asking for it (and sometimes willing to pay for it).

What were the ‘What to do’ and ‘What not to do’ while building your startup?
Don’t compromise. You started your business for reasons…stay true. Opinions are everywhere and it’s easy for someone to throw a suggestion about where they think your business should/could be.

Don’t try to do too much. We’ve tried to support too many platforms too early and are scrambling to make them all work. Pick a few things and make them as close to 100 percent as you can.

What were the good, the bad and the ugly of establishing thrdPlace?
It’s a rollercoaster – wins and losses every day. We have credit card companies calling us to pay our debts and clients signing deals every day. Managing cash flow while you’re bootstrapping is really hard – the most emotional thing I’ve ever done. It’s not fun to tell your team that they’re not getting paid this month…especially when you know how hard they’ve been working.

Stumbling Blocks, pivots and/or failures while establishing your business?
Our go-to-market strategy changed pretty drastically about eight months into the business.

What kind of support would be most helpful in the early days of the thrdPlace startup? 
Continuing programs like the Rackspace Startup Program are amazing. We wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are as a business without this program. We owe Rackspace, BizSpark, the HUB LA, Indinero and others a lot of thanks.

What straight up business advice would give to a startup?
It’s hard, but keep charging. Don’t take any win/loss too seriously. Tomorrow is another day. Remember to laugh.

The Rackspace Startup Program thanks our favorite USAFA cadet, Mike Colosimo, for taking the time out of his busy schedule to enlighten us on how thrdPlace is using technology to enable organizations to measure, evaluate and maximize their community outreach. For more insight on hosting your startup on the Rackspace Cloud platform backed by Fanatical Support™, contact the Space Cowboys today.

John McKenna loves startups and is a Space Cowboy with the Rackspace Startup Program. He also crafts customer stories and produces really cool videos for the Customer Reference Program. John enjoys telling stories through his writings…and loves the beach, the ranch, his dog Blue and most of all his three beautiful daughters.


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