Our most recent blog post was written by ThinkHouse Fellow, Zach Milburn. Learn more about his story and why he got involved in the program below:
I remember meeting with Jason for the first time back in February. We discussed one of my senior projects, a “free university” model that would function as a business incubator. The concept struck Jason as similar to something he had been cooking up on his own – something he called The ThinkHouse.
He mentioned that this living-space incubator was going to be for young, aspiring entrepreneurs such as myself. It was going to be a support network, full of mentors and peers, that would help “us” feel a little less crazy about not going the corporate route immediately after graduation. I was thrilled by the idea of it.
Now it has become a reality.
This week the house will finally open up to the public, and the fellows (currently Mark, Keegan, Sean and I) will move in as well. We already have an IndieGogo campaign underway, and a “soft open” event going down this Wednesday. The program doesn’t actually start until January 1st, as deadlines and schedules are running a bit differently this year than they will down the road. We are now presenting both the concept and the physical space publicly to the community.
As far as my story goes, I recently graduated in May from NCSU. I co-founded a website while I was there with my brother (Geoff Milburn) and a friend (Chris Roth) called WolfExchange, a classified ads platform for college students. We expanded the platform to a few more colleges, and students continue to use the various websites today. This led us to believe that we could revolutionize the Internet classifieds industry with sub-community based classified ad platforms.
We found that there was more work to be done than we realized if we wanted to take on giants like Craigslist. In order to bootstrap the process ourselves, my brother and I created HireNC.com (still in Beta). This is a platform designed for homeowners to safely order, pay for, and review various contractors without paying a subscription. We make money by taking a transaction fee on each job completed. Similarly, we just finished WolfTextBooks.com (basically a hybrid of the two platforms) that takes a transaction fee per book sold.
What I expect from the ThinkHouse is that it will make me filthy rich and famous. Kidding – but some direction, mentorship, and an expansion of my current network would be great. The peer support, exposure, and the resources that the physical house will provide are going to be invaluable for all of us. We’re confident that it’s going to be awesome and successful, and people are going to love it.
The first year of the program, though, comes with an amount of uncertainty for the participants – we don’t necessarily know what to expect. We are all aware that things are bound to change constantly, as we learn more about ourselves and our companies; what works, and what doesn’t. We are also aware that this program isn’t just about making money or getting investments; it’s about leveraging the resources from a wonderful and ever-growing entrepreneurial community to create successful, sustainable companies.
The goal is to have 50 ThinkHouses in 50 cities in 5 years, and the first one starts right here, at 410 Cutler Street Raleigh, NC.