By Frederic Wills ‘15, Gray Key Society Member
In the ever-changing social and technological age in which we live, it is important to find ways to excel, and Poly Alum, David Hauser ‘00, is doing just that.
Starting Poly as a freshman, Hauser took full advantage of Poly’s computer science courses
. He remembers working diligently in AP Computer Science
and becoming very involved in the department and with its faculty. One of his many notable projects included creating and working on a live feed of the 1998 Winter Olympics along with other high schools in New York. But it was not only in the classroom that Hauser excelled; he was also a member of Poly’s Varsity Football Team. It was through this program that his coaches and teammates instilled in him lifelong lessons in teamwork, dedication, and time management that he still lives by in his professional life. It was in Hauser’s senior year at Poly that he and four other Poly students got to use their computer skills, as well as the values from their extra-curriculars, to successfully launch their first tech start-up called Return Path, an email management service that is still operating.
Hauser’s success continued at Babson College in 2000. He always knew he wanted to run a business, even before he knew the word “entrepreneur,” so Babson and its respected undergraduate major in business and entrepreneurship was a natural choice for him. He credits his preparation in “math, science, and writing” at Poly for his triumphs at Babson and the launch of Return Path. ”Poly’s strong alumni network was also really helpful…”, he added.
Not long after, Hauser met his professional partner Siamak Taghaddos. He describes it as a “lucky match” because they were always on the same page; they had the same long-term goals. In areas where Hauser “is less strong,” Taghaddos more than makes up for any weaknesses, and vice versa. Hauser said Taghaddos also challenges him in ways a regular employee might not feel comfortable doing. Together, Hauser and Taghaddos launched their first, and most successful tech start-up, Grasshopper.
Hauser explained that Grasshopper focuses on supporting small businesses and helping them to succeed by “allowing you to run your business from your cell phone.” It also permits a user to add extensions off of the main line for different “departments and people and to receive calls, voicemails, and faxes anywhere on your cell phone.”
Today, they support over 200,000 small businesses. However, what makes Grasshopper, PopSurvey, Chargify, and Deck Foundry (Hauser’s other companies) unique is Hauser’s motto of “finding a problem and solving it.” What really sets these companies apart is the fact that Hauser “found a niche in the market that was unfilled and put together a team of the right people who were highly invested in the product.” Moreover, Hauser aims to target a specific audience, entrepreneurs. He says, “We are all citizens of the same entrepreneur community.”
One way Hauser supports the up-and-coming entrepreneur is through his efforts in the National Entrepreneurs Day (NED). “A lot of people say that entrepreneurs help make the country grow and run, but there is no action to recognize their efforts,” Hauser said. For this reason, he is one of the founding supporters of the National Entrepreneurs Day Movement. Hauser and the rest of his founding team have gained support from the White House, many congressional representatives, and many start-up companies to make this commemorative event an official national day on the 3rd Tuesday of every November. One key supporter in this effort is the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which aims to “help individuals attain economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success.” Eventually, Hauser hopes to have school and university programs built around this day. In addition to his advocacy on behalf of National Entrepreneurs Day, he offers a scholarship program for high school students going to college, free services for entrepreneurs, and a host of other options to support entrepreneurs.
However, things were not always so bright and smooth for Hauser, especially with the launch of Grasshopper, his first company with Taghaddos. With the start of Grasshopper, there was little money and, in 2003, the technology to back a company like Grasshopper was not as advanced as it is today. Hauser and Taghaddos often had to tap into their own finances to fund their endeavors. Moreover, Hauser said, “Hiring employees was a big challenge.” They wanted people who held the same core values as them. But Hauser stuck by his companies. He credits Poly and especially his experience on Poly’s Football team for the dedication and teamwork that he also looks for in his colleagues.
“With the right team and people invested in the product, everything else will fall into place,” he said. This team-based strategy enables him to successfully manage four companies. He relies heavily on his team for support. When asked about the biggest challenges he has to overcome as an entrepreneur, he said they involved communicating with people who do not necessarily have the same entrepreneurial mindset as he does.
“You can’t train someone to be an entrepreneur,” he said; it takes dedication and hard work.
Hauser feels that these types of engaging activities are very beneficial for life ahead in the fast-paced, technological society in which we now live. e for him
For those who are thinking of pursuing a career in entrepreneurship, he offers the following advice: “Take action! Nothing will happen with ideas unless you do something about them. Also, make sure you are fixing a problem that people will pay for, not just a ‘fad’ that will come and go.”