Marshall Haas - Age is never a deciding factor.


When at least half of us had not even decided what to do next after completing schooling, Marshall Haas was an entrepreneur already, at 17. He started his first venture (Velocity Source) with his cousin and after some time decided to move on to different things. Then started the AllRendered (providing architectural renderings for customers) and managed it with perfection even though all the designers he had employed were from different countries. Now he has also started Obsorb dealing with the mobile applications industry. Here are his answers for the questions we had for him:

CE: Tell us about yourself in a few words.
I'm an easy going 21 year old from Dallas, TX. My background is in architecture. Before I got interested in business I had planned to be an architect. I've always hung out with older people

CE: 21 years old and a serial entrepreneur already, working on your third venture. What was your inspiration to take a plunge in to the entrepreneurship when you were only 17? Was age a problem when you were connecting with your customers?
I'm a "serial entrepreneur" only because I've started a lot of different things. Stuff doesn't work out, you move on and go for the next thing. I've just kept going because I enjoy it.

My inspiration came from first doing a lot of reading. I've always been interested in successful people. I started to see there was a different path you could take in life. at an early age I was afforded the opportunity to work with people much older than me. I got to see the life path most people take, and I didn't like it. I wanted to build things, companies, and live an uncommon life, similar to the people I had read about from a young age. Trying to start my own company was a natural progression.

I never really had any problems with being young. Not having a physical location means no one sees you. On the internet and over the phone, no one knows how old you are. The only problem I recall was when we needed to register a legal company. Luckily I had a co-founder who was 22 and able to register the business and sign for a bank account. Once I turned 18 I could sign.

CE: How did you get started on your first venture (Velocity Source)?

My cousin (who was my first business partner) and I had always been car fanatics since we were kids. We wanted to do something that coincided with that interest, so we began researching ecommerce stores, who distributed the parts we wanted to sell, and so on. It was a lot of research and setup initially.

CE: Why did you sell the venture and what were the lessons you learnt out of that venture?

We only sold the ecommerce piece, domain, and distributor agreements we had, not the entire business. We eventually agreed to shut it down since our hearts were no longer in it. We both were losing interest in the market, and wanted to pursue different things. We learned a lot of things... but one that stands out is how long you wait to launch. We spent way too much time and cash in the beginning on infrastructure and processes. The thought was "when we have lots of orders, we're going to need all of this". The problem with that thinking is you don't know how big or small you're going to be. You have no idea if anyone will even care to buy from you at all. If I was doing it over, I would have registered the business, got a deal with 1 distributor, and tried to sell product first, without a website or store.

CE: Now you are handling two completely different business ventures: one provides architectural renderings for customers (AllRendered) and another is in mobile applications industry (Obsorb). How do you handle the two?

I've been running AllRendered for 3 years now, so it's pretty efficient with minimal inputs from me. I am also in the beginning stages of bringing someone else on to run the day to day. Because it's been around for a while, I am able to spend most of my time on Obsorb. I couldn't run both full time.

CE: You use an outsourced team of designers for AllRendered. How did you get the idea and how do you manage a team from far?

I believe the best people are scattered around the world. So with the help of technology, we're all able to utilize that fact. Managing someone that's 400 miles away, or halfway across the world always looks the same. We use simple tools like Skype, Dropbox, and Basecamp to manage a virtual team. I would say we're just organized. One person is the single point of contact to the client, that person talks with the project manager, who is their single point of contact. The project manager then overlooks the team of artists, architects, and animation guys.

The idea came while working at an architecture job I held midway through high school until I was 20. I worked there for 3.5 years and along the way observed a lot. One thing that stood out was the lack of dedicated people to do renderings, even though clients and firms wanted to animate and render projects. I thought there should be an affordable solution to offer those services. And so it went from there 😀

CE: What are the most important things when it comes to outsourcing in business?

Clarity and communication. You need to be incredibly specific about what you want. This applies to finding talent, and communicating with that talent.

CE: What were the channels that were used to reach out to your customers?

The old school cold call along with lots of emails and networking. Now most of our business is word of mouth. We also did a bit of Adwords in the past.

CE: What do you think will the demand and growth of the AllRendered products in the years to come?

Since we've been slowly coming out of the economic crisis, things have been getting better and better. The industry basically hit rock bottom in 2008 and 2009, so I think things will continue on an upswing.

CE: What impelled you to enter the mobile app industry with Obsorb?

I've been tinkering with mobile apps ever since Apple released the app store. If you ask any of my friends, I'm always playing with apps and mobile devices. I found some things that I thought could be done much better with the help of mobile devices, so here we are with Obsorb. We're still developing the first release, but hopefully I'll be able to share that soon.

CE: Thanks for taking time to answer all the questions. What is your message to the aspiring entrepreneurs in CE?

I think it comes down to persistence. If you have an idea, execute on it. If it doesn't work, execute on the next one. Repeat. We live in a time where in most of the world, its not crippling to fail. Keep going.


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