TAKING HIGHERME TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Evan Lodge MBA’14 and Rob Hunter MBA’14 came to Babson with different backgrounds but a similar goal in mind.
Lodge’s background was with Motor Trend magazine, a 6,000-person company. “I kind of felt trapped in such a big organization and decided I wanted to do entrepreneurship,” he says. “I didn’t know where to find people who shared that vision, but thought business school might be that place.”
Enter Rob Hunter, who had never been anyone’s employee and always had run his own business. Before Babson, Hunter was the owner of seven ice cream stores. He’d packed up all his things and drove to Babson from Canada, seeking a launching pad to incubate his next idea.
Throughout their time at Babson, Lodge and Hunter co-founded HigherMe, a recruiting platform for retail and service employers. “I wanted to solve a problem that I had a certain level of familiarity with,” says Hunter. HigherMe was the 2014 B.E.T.A. challenge winner, and Hunter credits Babson with providing the advice, network, and early financing that have helped HigherMe succeed.
Lodge and Hunter’s business relationships within the alumni network go both ways. “We got The Chicken & Rice Guys on board via an email recently,” says Hunter. They’ve found that the Babson name helps cut through a crowded inbox a bit faster. The two co-founders also have broadened their network cross country. Cindy Klein Marmer in The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship connected HigherMe with Gautam Gupta ’07, co-founder of NatureBox, in 2014.
“At the time we had just gotten in to Y Combinator, and were trying to build our West Coast network,” says Lodge. Gupta remembers their introduction, and wanting to keep in touch. “Rob had been a small business owner, so I realized their business was going to win because he understands the market better than anyone else. I felt like theirs was a business where I could be helpful because the stage that they’re in with HigherMe is kind of where we were at NatureBox three years ago—a lot of very similar challenges.”
Ultimately, Gupta decided to invest in HigherMe. “The onus is on me to do whatever I can to be helpful because they’ve given me the privilege of being involved,” he says. It’s a model that Lodge and Hunter do not take for granted. “I look forward to doing what he did; giving back in a way that aligns incentives and makes it mutually beneficial,” says Hunter. “I can’t wait to invest in a Babson company.”
This year (2016) promises to be a big year for HigherMe. Kevin Connors MBA’14 has joined the team to lead sales, and all are excited about the company’s growth. They caution however that it hasn’t always been an easy ride, and compare the past few years of startup life to climbing a mountain in the fog. Milestones such as winning the B.E.T.A. Challenge or being accepted into MassChallenge feel relative, because there’s always a next peak to chase.
“I’m good with the emotional roller coaster now, but I wasn’t prepared for it,” says Lodge. “Everyone says that startups are hard, but it means more when you’re actually going through it."
But, there are upswings—Y Combinator, releasing the product, signing the first customer, expanding into additional markets—that justify the ride. “The entire experience has been a roller coaster,” says Lodge, “but definitely rewarding.”