Interview With Marshall Haas Of NeedWant
The following is an interview with young serial entrepreneur, Marshall Haas. Marshall’s websites are MarshallHaas.com and NeedWant.com where the rest of his ventures are showcased. Marshall was 23 at the time of the interview, but has just recently turned 24.
Marshall was a winner of the Underground scholarship the first year it was done, and has gone to a very successful entrepreneurial journey.
Marshall is really a product innovator, so we talked about his process for coming up with product ideas, the pre-launch process, and successfully running multiple brands at once. We also talked a bit about Marshall’s entrepreneurial journey, his successes, and his failures and lessons along the way.
My biggest takeaways from the interview include…
- Idea generation often has to be intentional at first, before it becomes natural. Marshall started by sitting down and consciously thinking of ideas, then eventually it became a natural process of innovation.
- Having an older business partner and mentor can go a long way in creating greater success as a young entrepreneur. Combine your young energy and creativity with their experience, resources, and wisdom.
- Most times, things won’t work the first time around. Maybe not even the first 5 times. This is normal, and you have to keep trying, keep pushing forward, and you’ll eventually get it right.
- While you can build a successful business from any circumstances, having freedom of location allows you to think and act more clearly, and be a more effective entrepreneur.
- As long as you build proper systems and automate the process, you can launch multiple unrelated physical products in different niches successfully without dedicated CEO’s or Product Managers for each.
- If working on multiple brands, even if unrelated, having a larger Umbrella brand (for Marshall this is NeedWant) helps build long term momentum and recognition in the marketplace.
The Google Hangout unfortunately cut out Marshall’s video at the beginning, so the recording is mostly just audio. You can listen below, and read the accompanying interview transcript.
Dmitriy: I’m here with Marshall Haas, he’s 23 years old, a serial entrepreneur and product guy, he already develops lots of really unique stuff, he was a scholarship recipient for Underground, the first year we ever did the scholarship program and has before and since been a successful entrepreneur and has built really cool stuff over the last few years.
So welcome Marshall, thank you for taking the time today.
Marshall: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Dmitriy: Absolutely. So, I checked out your personal site in the needwant.com and it looks like you build a lot of like really unique products for unique market places almost like category creators.
So the first question would be, what’s your process for idea generation and then testing for market viability.
Marshall: Sure. I used to just sit down and literally try to have ideas, like as weird as it sounds, almost like trying to practice it and then like know what it’s just like, it’s always on my mind.
Looking for different problems that you know may have a solution but isn’t very elegant or with the bedding thing, like it was just personal frustration and like productizing a solution. So yeah, it’s all good place nowadays it’s just like more of like day to day like a natural thing. I don’t know which thought process starts to go in that direction when I have free time. So yeah, I don’t know it all, a good place.
Dmitriy: Cool. So now it’s like you solve the old problems and bring that to the market place?
Marshall: Yeah, I think so. Sometimes it’s our own problems, sometimes it’s others, there’s a gap in the marketplace and this could be really cool. I think the best solutions like smartbeddings is one of my favorite and like that one of course like a personal frustration and I understand the problem so I could figure best one to design a solution for it.
Dmitriy: Okay. So now that you have multiple ventures, or multiple products, did you end up starting like multiple things at once or did you start one and then once you’re like, “okay this one’s nice and neatly buttoned up, start the next”. Do you have a science to it? Or is it just like, you’re inspired and you go start something?
Marshall: Sure. Like most people, I can have like entrepreneurial A.D.D., I’ve heard that term a lot. So I used to just like go all over the place, it’s like “oh this is interesting” but I’m still like you know, well into this a year into this other thing, like I need to put my time into. So I think like over the last years, I got a little more disciplined. Like okay this is a cool idea but let’s put this on the shelf until we like really locked down a process on this one and get it rolling. So it’s like, I definitely became more disciplined about it and now it’s definitely like “alright let’s lock down going for needwant example like let’s lock down smartbedding, like keep production rolling, everything we need to get that set-up and then work on the next thing”. And sometimes whenever, there’s like downtime waiting on manufacturing or whatever we’ll do a little bit on the next thing. But yeah, I’ll definitely try to be way more disciplined with that with the last year because it’s definitely true, like when you start bouncing around things start to suffer.
Dmitriy: Yeah, you lose focus a little bit.
Marshall: Yeah, absolutely.
Dmitriy: So then on that note, right now and in the near future do you run all of the companies with yourself and your business partner or all of the projects and products or do you guys find operator CEOs for the individual subsets or companies?
Marshall: Yeah. So with Needwant it’s definitely Jon and myself. We’re 50-50 partners and we’ve never really looked at hiring someone else to like run the day to day. Also I don’t think we ever will; with physical products and you have that process down and you can now resell. So it’s not like a lot of day to day that needs to – basically what I’m trying to say is that you can automate a lot. It’s really worthless bringing in a CEO type for each product unless they’re much, much bigger.
Unofficially, I’m CEO and he’s much better with the product than me. Like he definitely I would say has a lot better ideas than I do. And I think he tends to spend a lot of his time to think up different ideas. So yeah, we’re a good fit. Like we definitely have a lot of the same skill sets. We’re both like super product focused. I’m focusing more on the business growth ideas and he’s working on like making product better. And there’s a lot of overlap as well but yeah I think that it’s going to be just the two of us working on it long term.
Dmitriy: Cool. Awesome. How much do you think finding the right business partner has played a role in your success so far for the last few years? And then going forward?
Marshall: I think it’s huge. The first thing I tried was with my cousin who was like my brother. And like whatever that was the first thing and it crashed and burned because probably we were both really inexperienced. So nothing against him. Yeah, I had a lot of business partners and you know I think you can make things work like you know people that aren’t the greatest ever but it’s definitely huge finding the right people. And thinking about that I would just start working on things by myself and just never really make any assumptions like “oh, I need a co-founder” at some point. And it just , you know, you meet different people, you start making things putting them out to the world. Meeting other cool people that are doing other interesting things. And sometimes they’re like a good fit and you both like a place where you both starting something up that it make sense to you to bring them in. And that’s how things happened with Jon and I. Yeah so super important obviously.
Dmitriy: Cool. Both you and Jon have exited before you started working together through some sort of a previous start-up company – so you tell me a little bit about that and then how that played a role in what you do now.
Marshall: Sure. So, Jon co-founded dailybooth which was like pre-Instagram, like it was this picture sharing platform, where like you use mostly, I think actually only the webcam. And like you take a picture daily was the idea then you could like respond with pictures. And it was like really interesting community of just pictures like going back and forth and like they make their income…. raise much money. Like Ashton Kutcher is an investor and stuff like that. like their pretty big. And then they were like aqua hired by Airbnb couple years ago, maybe like two years ago or maybe a year i’m not really sure. And then he left just prior actually and went off and started just like thinking out with different tons of different stuff. And then I was working on this company called Absorbed and it was like project management software with like a roll your own takes so the idea was like you know everyone needs something different so we built out this like very modular system where it’s like okay if I need these features I can grab them ànd build my own project management app to suit what I do versus an architect or an event planner. And so that was the first company where I raised a little bit of money, raise like 110k. I started with myself and then actually had a technical co-founder join me while I was in Chile for a start-up Chile. And actually the first product is like ultimately failed. We was not getting enough attraction, and we still own some money in the bank and the idea was like we can either double down on this original thing like totally redesign it or like let’s try something new. And this is a much longer story but basically I got connected with Andrew Wilkinson of Metalab. He and I started keeping in touch. I basically pitched him on doing like a 50-50 joint venture and the idea was like “hey we got some cash in the bank still and we can pair on way and let’s build a product together and let’s lunch under metalab. And it was like cool, awesome, that’s great but like you guys need to come up here for two months here in the Victoria, B.C. And so we did that and then all the while the idea was still it’s like a joint venture between two companies building new products, so like we’re still independent, they’re independent. And then while we’re up there, two months working together it just became very clear, they really liked us. And Andrew made an offer to press to join them and you know it’s good. I’ve always been a fan of Metalab so we obviously took the deal. So I’m actually still with them. Like I’m a partner with them now. So I’m like bouncing my time between Metalab and Needwant stuffs. So that’s getting way out of myself, that’s the start between Jon and I, and those two companies.
Dmitriy: Yeah for sure. It sounds like you know you probably learned a lot through all of those experiences that allowed you to build your own.
Marshall: Yeah absolutely.
Dmitriy: How much of a factor do you think, or how important do you think it is to have that flexible lifestyle where you feel like ok while I’m living here, I’m gonna move to Chile to work on a start-up and go up to Victoria. That’s obviously pretty cool how much of a factor do you think that plays in being able to have that agile lifestyle for an entrepreneurial success?
Marshall: Yeah, I mean, I just think it depends on your personality like some people need, you know, structure and like routine day to day. And I’m actually getting to that point now where it’s like I want, I wanted to just, like for a while I don’t know where I will be, I just wanna be in two months or six months or whatever or where I’m gonna be living. And that gets old but I think for several years like it’s awesome, like I’m super laid back. And I think I have the right personality where like I can thrive in those situations where it’s like, oh, this is exciting, like I’m gonna be somewhere new. So, yeah, I mean totally important but at the same time like, it does get old after you know, a while, like you want to be based somewhere, right?
Marshall: But yeah like having the freedom to do that is definitely a huge perk and I think like it helps with, you know, it all trickles down like being happy, likes helps you have good ideas, and like treat people correctly and think clearly like when you operating your business. That happiness comes from freedom of location and will help you I think thrive in whatever you’re doing.
Dmitriy: Cool. Awesome. So, some of your products launched at the other store and pre-launched, do you have any good tips for preparing for launch and how to market yourself during pre-launch so as to have a successful product launch?
Marshall: Sure. It’s like with physical products, we have definitely found, we were just like foreign lever kick starter, I think just that whole crowd funding platform and like concepts, like really, like helps kick things off where it’s like a very big bang like it’s theres a time limit on, like your customer’s being like ‘Oh i want this thing, I wanna be in the first run of it.’ And there’s like you know yeah, okay, you have 30 days or 60 days or 15 days or whatever the limit is to like get behind this thing, and like you know, hand over your credit card. So, I think that helps a lot, like we definitely just really embrace that model. And like you know, if you launch something and it just doesn’t do well like, you don’t have that much money right? Like, you know, we, I think costs is like 5K and be ready to launch your own kickstarter for the last thing we did. And if like, not enough people like it, we obviously would have been out like the 4 whatever 50k and have nothing to market it. Yeah, so with physical products like we definitely just embrace that crowdfunding model and as far as like, you know, different thing is ran now, like you know we’ve put up a coming soon page super early, I mean as soon as we like have the idea that like we’re gonna do this thing and you put up some sort of page with collecting e-mail. And like that definitely help a lot like having that pre-launch. And like now, you know fortunate time like good networking friends that have audiences similar to ours that you know we can just buddies, nothing like super formal that we can hit them up to help us just get the word out. So, it’s super dirty, the whole process isn’t super fun, it’s super messy. Like every time we’re gonna launch something but yeah, there are definitely some things that we’ve been able to repeat and like ok, this works, you know. What the next thing we’ll do, we’ll apply work with the thing after that. Yeah.
Dmitriy: Cool. How do you see the next 2 or 3 years playing out for you? Will you keep focusing on everything you have on the table now or do you envision possibly new ideas, new products, new campaigns coming at the play?
Marshall: Yeah, so I think like now I can say with certainty like I’m gonna be doing in Metalab like helping in like being a partner there like helping with software business and physical products through need what, you know, with Metalab I’m sure we’ll have a new product. I know we’ll have new products coming out in the next few years. It is all through that business at the same you need warrant and for Jon and I,I think we’re gonna bootstrap this thing to long-term and you know, there will definitely be new products but still under you know you need one. I think that’s just gonna the next 20-year plan, I think it’s a to be a part of those two companies and do the longterm like I definitely found exactly what I wanna do, splitting time between, like two different businesses like software, B2B software like consumer physical products but I think that like it scratches all the issues that I have as far as like you know, attention and I think I’ll never get bored doing this for the next 20 or 30 years.
Dmitriy: Cool. So you got to cater your entrepreneurial A.D.D. and still stay focused on something you know, so you got both like the certainty and uncertainty within one spear. Awesome.
Marshall: Yeah. Totally. There is definitely a lot of benefit now, like I always knew this but now I’m like seeing it first hand and to like building everything under one brand like you know ten years from now, people are gonna be like “Oh yeah, that physical product company Needwant’. It is like starting something from scratch, like you’re literally starting from nothing, like with every single product launch that we do, we got an existing customer base or fan base to like we market things to and not just like that’s so huge like that and it’s just easier when you’re launching new things. Yeah.
Dmitriy: Cool. That’s awesome, literally allows you to still keep doing new stuffs but really build momentum for the long term within one company.
Marshall: Exactly. Exactly. Awesome.
Dmitriy: You’ve had a lot of different experiences, my question to you would be about a mentor or something, firstly who have you had as your mentors or other figures you’ve looked up to and then what’s the best advice that you’ve ever been given personally?
Marshall: That advice one is hard, I actually haven’t sat down and like you know it’s the best advice for certain situations. As far as like one person, like I definitely always, I never really had like a formal mentor, like one guy that is like 10 or 20 years ahead of me that you know, I can always go to. It’s just been like a lot of different people that I’ve been fortunate enough to like question about one specific thing I could reach out to. And, so that’s of course, been huge like getting advice from like this giant pool of experts that I could get for knowledge or whatever questions, you know, I consider friends. I think Andrew, the founder and CEO of Metalab, he’s like 5 years older than me so, we’re not actually that far apart but he’s definitely had way more success than I have. I’m his partner now with things like I would consider, like if there was one mentor that I have, I would say it’s him. Like, just being in business with him, he’s further ahead of me. I would definitely say that it’s a roundtable of people.
Dmitriy: Cool. Awesome. And then to flip that, what advice would you give to, let’s say your younger self 5 years ago or to somebody that’s just starting in the business today that’s maybe around that age like 18 or possibly early 20’s?
Marshall: I think, there’s always this heed of uncertainty of doing things, like the back of my mind, there are tons of things like crashed and burned and failed, over and over, right? Like you tried something and didn’t work, and like I think and this applies to most things, and I think people know this in the back of their mind.This is like what keeps you from going and like, if you just keep trying things and like, really genuinely try and learn from what didn’t work last time, like whatever it was like we needed better marketing or a bigger audience to launch to or the product was shed or whatever it was. If you do it long enough, like you stay in the game long enough, and genuinely learn from your mistakes, like you will eventually figure it out; you only need to be right one time and so you’re gonna be right eventually if you stay in it.
Marshall: I would just tell myself ‘Hang on buddy, like you’ll figure it out eventually’. Right? Like yeah, so like it’s frustrating because people figured it out sooner or later than others, like some people their first thing is like hitting it out in the park and others, and is like stories of whatever case like so many years of trying and eventually got it. And it’s like late age.
Marshall: So yeah, that’s frustrating to sit by and watch. I had a buddy that like had no interest in business and like the first thing he did was made good money from and it was a nice business to support his lifestyle. That’s frustrating to watch, you know, when you have been trying different things for like 5 years or whatever but like, eventually, I can just promise anyone that eventually, you’ll figure it out.
Dmitriy: Awesome. That’s perfect. Alright, well, I think we’re all set for the day. This is really, really great content. I actually got some good notes myself. It’s really inspiring, what you’re doing at this age so far, and it’s exciting to see what you’ll do the next 5 years and beyond. And it’s clear that you’re gonna keep tinkering and building new stuff and I’m really excited to watch.