Mark Grimes is a social entrepreneur, startup founder and angel investor who has started each of his businesses over the last 20 years with cash on hand, no business plan and all have been profitable within 90 days. Founder of eyescream interactive an advertising agency with clients such as P&G, Nextel, Disney, and Outpost.com. The agency was one of the top 20 interactive advertising agencies according to Adweek magazine and annual billings over 7.1 million dollars.
Currently focusing on developing social purpose enterprises and helping other social entrepreneurs and startups develop their business models. Current businesses include NedSpace co-working for startups, innovative tech companies, and social entrepreneurs; and Maker Faire Africa a celebration of African ingenuity, innovation, invention and social entrepreneurship. Mark is also a co-founder of Stop Genocide Now, working to end the genocide in Darfur and on the board of directors of Homowo promoting Africa arts in the Pacific Northwest and Made By Survivors fighting slavery and human trafficking around the world.
What is your company?
NedSpace, co-working space for startups, entrepreneurs, designers, marketers, coders, HTML jockeys, remote workers and freelancers. A turnkey office and working solution for people looking for more community and collaboration and less coffee shops and working in pajamas at home.
How did you come up with the idea?
I wanted to prove the model in Portland, Oregon and then launch it in developing countries and emerging markets. The goal is to have a place where startup founders can gather and share information, ideas and help one another launch and grow their businesses.
Where did you find your first customer?
Years ago we identified a possible location in downtown Portland. Decades old carpets being ripped up, paint just getting ready to be done by the lead singer of a fairly prominent band that as living in the basement of the building. We toured 8 startup founders thru the space and asked them if they’d rent a desk or office in what looked like a hellhole.
Half said yes, so we signed the lease, launched, and were cashflow positive in under 90 days. Since then, we’ve had 12 companies raise over $75 million dollars over the last five years, and seven have had significant exits.
How did you determine your target market?
Good people doing interesting things. I want to attract both the excitement of fast growing startups and the balance of remote workers and freelancers.
What are you currently doing to reach them?
Word of mouth is still our best ally after almost five years.
I have never paid for an ad or marketing…. ever.
How much did you start up with?
How much what? Balls? Two.
Cash? Our first expense 2-3 weeks in was $800 for 8 chairs.
Did you bring on investors, get loans, or grow naturally?
No investors. No debt.
Let real demand grow a real business.
Lean business. All the way.
What’s the best advice someone has given you?
1% of a lot is better than 100% of nothing.
Something Norm Winningstad shared with me over lunch when I asked him 30 years ago what’s the one thing he wish he knew when he started his first (of many) companys.
What are your keys to staying productive?
Try to do the most important 2-3 things every day to grow your business.
Don’t get sucked into bullshit meetings.
Maintained inbox zero for three months and growing now.
When you started, what was one thing you wish you knew?
Don’t overload the place with just fast growing startups. Once they hit about 6-7 FT staff they leave (good for everyone) but the unbalance that can create too much churn.
What resources or books do you refer to regularly?
The only three daily emails I get are:
Has your company experienced any close calls or lucky moments?
During the last holiday season, with only 21 days notice, we had to move 7,500 sqft into an entirely new location with 40+ people (both a close call and lucky moment).
What does success mean to you?
Doing what you want, when you want, how you want, having customers and partners that are great to work with and thrilled with our work.
Enjoying the daily challenges of work in combination with good time spent with family.
Where would you like to see your business 5 years from now?
More of the same…
Helping more and more startup founders to better, bigger and more interesting things.
What do you need help with?
If you know good people doing interesting things,
looking for a great place to work, send them my way.
How can people find you online?
[Editor’s Note: The CAKEpdx offices are located within NedSpace. Without any fluff or B.S. we’ll just say that if you’re seriously about growing your homebased business, you eventually have to get out of the house. Since joining NedSpace our revenue has doubled.]