[quote style=”boxed”]I communicate with our whole team all the time. I recommend over-communication and also being as transparent as possible.[/quote]
Mary has over twenty-five years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. She is a self-described recovering accountant, holding both a CA and CPA, and a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University and a JD from Arizona State. Her prior work experience includes financial auditing with Richter, Usher, & Vineberg, consulting with Price Waterhouse, and executive positions with Vancouver Community College, AMEC Training & Development, and Chief Operating Officer with a local online startup, youchange Inc.
In 2010, while enduring law school, Mary founded traklight.com, a site that provides inventors, creators, and small businesses with the tools to identify and protect their intellectual property (IP). Mary also consults and mentors start-ups in the areas of planning, business models, and IP identification.
In addition to her volunteer work, Mary is an active leader and member for local groups and organizations including 85Broads (Co-President), Arizona Tech Council’s Startup & Entrepreneurship Committee, Arizona Small Business Association, Startup Arizona, TiE, ASU Women in Philanthropy, and national crowdfunding organizations CFPA and CfiRA.
A native of Canada, Mary now lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and teenagers.
What are you working on right now?
Founder and CEO of Traklight.com. Working on growing existing customers, fundraising, and most importantly raising awareness for the importance of identifying and protecting Intellectual Property (IP) to improve chances for success for our community: inventors, entrepreneurs, small to medium sized businesses.
Where did the idea for Traklight.com come from?
I was in law school and heard horror stories about small businesses losing their IP and accidentally infringing on others’ IP. The problem is that many do not understand that they have IP when 100% of companies do and those who realize that they might have IP are often either afraid to consult an attorney or cannot afford it.
How do you make money?
We have SaaS tools that are subscription based (annual fees and moving to monthly).
What does your typical day look like?
Day starts at 5 am (its hot in AZ so we get up early!). I first review my emails (my inbox is my todo list); reading Seth Godin and anything new that Mark Suster or Dharmesh Shah have posted. Our team is around the country and we have channel partners on the East Coast so often early morning calls before the office. Our office is at a local incubator so always lots going on there and we are active in the local startup community and there always seems to be an event in the evening.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Our office has the white board paint on the wall and I am a big fan of post-its. Our software application were created in Excel and then transferred to poster boards (before we had the huge white board). We are in the midst of creating some new tools and we have great brainstorming sessions. The coding and testing seems tedious but all of us involved kind of love building stuff!
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Gamification for education (we are working on a game to educate about IP while having fun) plus APIs allowing so many products to be strung together to improve UI and leverage technology.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Back in university I was part of an exchange program amongst kids of executives. So a student went to the company my dad worked for and worked in accounting and I went to that student’s parent’s company and worked in the shipping dept and packed circuit boards into plastic bags and then boxes for the summer.
I learned that I really needed to stay in school and that it would be wise to clarify jobs before taking them!
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would involve partners earlier, especially for marketing (not my area of expertise). And I would have learned about technology and become tech literate first.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I communicate with our whole team all the time. I recommend over-communication and also being as transparent as possible.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Just one? I hired developers without understanding enough about tech so that I could not evaluate the language choices and lost time on the project. I have learned about technology by asking questions and also doing the TechSpeak for Entrepreneurs class.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am happy to give away an idea because it is truly in the execution. If someone could solve for the password dilemma in a better way than the current solutions – some different type of authentication, that would be awesome.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
Water for everyone. Recently was introduced to Charity Water effort and it is simply amazing. I would join them!
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I am actually an introvert and some days would rather stay at home with my real books, excel spreadsheets, lists, and postits and not really talk to anyone.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
a. Twitter – can scan quickly and search for cool articles
b. Excel – you cannot take the accountant out of me and I love lists
c. Gmail – allows startups to have professional looking email services with no cost
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Different than all the other books in the space and love a quick read.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Mark Cuban – love his take on patent trolls and stupid patents
Rodney Sampson – passionate entrepreneur
Mark Suster – great advice from someone on “both sides of the table”
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Yesterday, at the office when we were trying to shoot video for a grant application. We have 5 people jammed in our space and there were 3 people “acting normal and working” in the background. We were recording me talking and then randomly two people start actually working and discussing over top of my pitch….we have some other great bloopers.
Who is your hero, and why?
My husband who has supported me through thick and thin with all the craziness personal and professional over the past 8 years. He is a rock and I could not do what I do without him.
How do you balance growth and delegation with maintaining your brand and culture?
Take the time to explain the end result or plan to new team members but also how the company got to its point now – good things and bad things. Create a culture code when you are small and never deviate from it with all your new hires. And truly empower people to do a good job.
What is totally important to keep together during a startup?
You – your health. As you grow, your team depends on you and you have to take care of you first.
Tracklight on Twitter: @traklight
Safe Crowdfunding on Twitter: @safecrowdfund
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.