An Interview with GlobeSherpa’s Founders, Nat Parker & Michael Gray

By Megan Nelson

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Started in 2010, GlobeSherpa is a Portland-based company started by Nat Parker and Michael Gray, two MIM alumni. The company provides a secure, mobile ticketing platform for mass transit systems. They are using the same technology to develop mobile ticketing systems for parking, events, and local destinations. Recently GlobeSherpa won the 2014 Juniper Research Future Mobile Award, which supports companies that have made a significant contribution and have the potential to have a significant market contribution in the future.

GlobeSherpa has developed a large talent pool focused on mobile application development. They are now recruiting for openings with their growing company, and have developed a unique video to grab the attention of potential associates, which supports the flare for innovation and fun corporate culture that Nat and Michael have developed into GlobeSherpa.

Nat and Michael will be available for questions after the Age of Pacific Lecture series on Friday, September 26. Recently, I was able to ask some questions about how the MIM program made an impact in the lives of Nat and Michael and for any advice they have for future MIM graduates:

 

Why did you choose PSU’s MIM program and how did it help you in the development and growth of GlobeSherpa?

We were both working in Portland and enrolled in Portland State University’s MIM program because it was convenient, had a strong international focus, and offered a comprehensive curriculum. The professors in the MIM program provided guidance early mentoring to us as we built out the idea for GlobeSherpa.

 

GlobeSherpa seems to be making headway in areas all over the U.S. What are some locations internationally where you are looking to integrate this technology? Why those locations (Personal interest, demand, etc.)?

Today, we are focused on winning North America. We have a lot of momentum in the US with TriMet, Virginia Railway Express, and Los Angeles Department of Transportation among others. In addition to the US, we are actively pursuing opportunities in Canada, including Toronto, Saskatchewan, and Vancouver B.C. As we look out into the near future, Europe and Asia hold a great deal of promise for our technology. We believe the appetite for mobile ticketing is high in all these locations due to high adoption of mobile phones and the desire by transit systems to adopt technologies that make paying for transit easier.

 

GlobeSherpa has won many awards over the past few years. How has this affected the growth and recognition of the company, and how do these awards connect to your brand messaging and what GlobeSherpa wants to be known for?

Winning awards is a great way to be recognized in the marketplace as a leader and innovator. It’s also humbling to be considered for recognition next to other amazing companies we admire and have learned from.  Awards also provide an opportunity to attract talented engineers and designers. We want GlobeSherpa to be known for our focus on innovation, agile development, and design/user experience.

 

The new recruiting video is very unique and fun. How did this idea come about, and is it reflective of the working environment at GlobeSherpa? How has it worked for the company in terms of recruiting?

The recruiting video was created by a friend of the company’s named Carl Tietze. He had created a video for Turbo Tax that we really loved. So we brought him in and talked to him about our platform and company. He then created the music and drafted the words based on that meeting. We worked with him over the course of a few weeks, and the video was done. For the most part, it is reflective of our company and our culture. We are a close group that appreciates each other’s company. We work hard and play hard, and we wanted a video that appropriately pushed the limits but also would resonate with the kind of developers and designers we wanted to hire. Yes, the video has been successful. We have hired four people over the course of the past three months.

 

What advice do you have for those graduating from the MIM program and others looking to start a business in Portland?

For individuals looking to start a company right out of school, we would provide three pieces of advice:

  1. Tell it like it is. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Being upfront and forthright has enormous advantages. Focus on being genuine and authentic in your pitches, your selling, and your products, and learn to say no!
  1. Kill Your Darlings. Focus on the end-user experience vs. the product that facilitates the experience. Its also very important to recognize your own emotional attachments, and don’t let those cloud your judgment about what the customer wants and needs.
  1. Go straight to the top. Communicate early and often with your target customers. Don’t get caught in middle management. Cultivate and maintain a champion that will help you move forward on your goals. And very important, people want to tell their story if you are bold enough to ask—so ask! Stories are often filled with solutions that address their pain point.

 

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