Mike Crown, President and CEO of FracTEL, sat in a tea shop for almost four hours, mentoring Adam Hoffmann, a new transplant to the Space Coast, in the basics of starting a business.
Almost a year later, Adam, Groundswell Mentor and HelloNimble Founder, announced that he had accepted a position as Chief Marketing Officer at FracTEL. We sat down with Mike and Adam to talk about how this surprising pair came about and how innovative communities contribute to the development of startup teams.
Adam and Mike met at Groundswell events, mostly at the insistence of other members of the community. Adam said that that was integral, “anywhere else,” he said, “I would’ve met [Mike], shook his hand and we would’ve moved on. But because of Groundswell, we were in the same places over and over again and that led to us getting to know each other well enough to start thinking about how we could work together and what that would look like.”
For Mike, finding creative and marketing talent wasn’t at his top of mind. FracTEL, which focuses on communication solutions for businesses, was already one of the most well-established companies in the Groundswell network when the two met. But it’s hard not to see opportunity in talent.
“Groundswell was the environment where we had the opportunity to establish a reputation in such a way that we came onto each other’s radar,” Mike said, referring to Adam’s work for other startups in the community and participation as a mentor in the Groundswell network.
“Ultimately, there was a project that came along that we realized we could maybe use Adam on,” Mike said. And though HelloNimble was taking on FracTEL as a client, “this environment created an opportunity where we could interact in a different way than we normally would — in a typical provider-customer sort of way.”
“The year and a half that I’ve been hanging around Groundswell, I got a much better idea of what a company like Mike’s would need,” Adam said of his early work with FracTEL. “Through the mentoring I got a much better idea of what people needed and how they expected to grow and me helping them to dissect that grew my skillset quite a bit.”
Adam used that knowledge and his experience with other companies in the community to better add value to FracTEL’s projects. He used feedback from other mentors and members to hone new ideas and improve designs. “When you’re talking with a room full of entrepreneurs, all of the things they’re thinking about get injected and it’s made the ideas we’re working on a lot more robust and powerful,” Adam said.
“For both Mike and I,” Adam said, “there was a benefit there.” Mike got to try out a new team member, find out if Adam could think creatively, bring new ideas to the table and value to their processes; while Adam could find out if FracTEL shared his values, if they were going to be open to his creative input and contribute to his ideas. “That’s not an opportunity that you get outside of a place like Groundswell,” Mike said.
Though Adam has joined Mike’s team at FracTEL, that doesn’t mean that they’ll withdraw from the community or stop taking advantage of the variety of talent there. “These products and services that FracTEL is starting to offer have really grown exponentially because of the input that was coming from all of these different sources and ideas,” Adam said. “That’s really hard to do when you’re working from your couch or when you’re sitting in your office, around the same people every day.”
And that new project Adam was working on? You can hear about it firsthand at our May 30th Art of the Pitch, when Adam will give the first public pitch on FracTEL’s new product, Skrum. Find out more or click here to RSVP.
Groundswell Startups is a business incubator and coworking space devoted to building an environment that fosters innovation and empowers technologists, entrepreneurs and creatives in the Space Coast. We serve this mission through events and workshops, mentorship and a killer place to work. Click here to check out upcoming events or to see how you can get involved.