Marc Printz Article: (19 April 2017)
Mark Printz is focused on social entrepreneurship, and currently is working at Dropwise, company he co-founded. Dripley – a mobile gaming service that allows you to play for money that you can in turn donate to causes that you care about, is their first product Below is the Q&A that Mark sat down with us for.
Q: Entrepreneurship can be difficult to get involved in, especially as an aerospace. Maybe you had some preliminary thought about it before coming into college?
A: “Back in my sophomore year in highschool, I started doing hydroponics at home. I grew my own food. I grew a lot more than I needed so I would sell to people I knew, and I kept a little booklet of it. That was my first taste of sole proprietorship. Between then and going into my freshman year I worked for lots of different people, probably around six. That’s when it hit me that I could make a startup and contract out everything. That’s what I did last summer. And so really that was my first taste of entrepreneurship and when I knew that I really wanted to do something entrepreneurial.”
“I always I wanted to do something innovative, so for a while I thought R&D… but during freshman year I realized I wasn’t as interested in building the product as I was building the company. during my GPS class first semester, as a group project we designed a thing that could become a business in the future if we have substantial capital, which is the continuous struggle. But we were also attending a talk by Rodrigo Bausio and Martin Burt. We were attending a talk by both of them and they were talking about how nonprofits are getting less funding and I was sitting there saying “huh, I really want to help out with that”, and my friend was sitting there thinking about the thing that eventually became our GPS project. It was just kind of a funny happenchance. Then we started working on it together. roject. It was just kind of a funny happenchance. And then we started working on it together. That’s really how we became good friends and how I got a taste of social entrepreneurship and really figured out that it’s something I liked. We would meet maybe three times a week and I loved doing that far more than the engineering classes. And that’s when I really figured out that’s what I’m interested in. While studying, doing homework, I was like “man I really just want to go do that instead, that’s what I’m passionate about. That’s how I figured it out.”
Q: What sort of made that switch from Aerospace? Was it faculty? Did you have anyone behind you, supporting you? Is it just, kind of a “yaknow I’m tired of this, I want to switch.”
A: I switched in between C&D term freshman year. The first two terms I totally thought I was an aero and I totally hated it. C term, I was like “really I just want to do some business stuff”. It was really the mentality switch of, I wish I could drop out and work on my startup instead. And that is really what I wanted to do. There are 3 other startups that I wanted to start at the same time, so now I keep a booklet. I was just super interested, I would read the news about stuff like that. That’s how I really figured out that I wanted to do that stuff. Even senior year of highschool, I was thinking entrepreneurial. My senior project was “How to get a geodescent biodome greenhouse for our school, and a liquid food digester to compost all of our food waste, use those nutrients to run hydroponic systems, in the greenhouse to grow the food for the school.” I made a big long proposal that I presented to the board of trustees. So that was kind of also my foire into entrepreneurship.”
“Each aspect has been a little more on the social side, and less of “I’m going to build a new product”. My dad really wanted me to get the Tech experience, and a lot of people were saying “you should stick in the field so you learn and you know what needs to be innovated in a couple of years. You need the background”. My dad’s point was also, if you start a company you really need to know what other people are talking about so they can’t BS you. I went for that through C term and was like ehhhhhh. Then I just went and did it on my own. I did it in my dorm and was like heh, why not.”
Q: How did you grow it from your dorm room? What is the scale?
A: “Driply is our product, Dropwise is our company. Dropwise, scientifically, means drop by drop. We’re a company that creates products and services that do social good. Driply, our first product, is a competitive mobile game where players can direct corporate dollars to causes they care about.”
“It was kind of second semester when we really started, meeting and talking about it. Maybe 3 days a week, really flushing out the different things. We got another guy from California, a guy from Texas. We were spread out everywhere. One from Seattle. Then we started meeting with Gina Betti from the business school. She’s been advising us, and she was never like’ “Oh you should switch majors” but interacting with her at these different things, is also kind of when I realized that I wanted to do entrepreneurship.”
“During the summer, I started working and travelling. In July I flew out to Seattle for a month, there was one in Seattle, and another from LA that met me there. We worked on it for about a month, meeting up every day, working on the startup. It was a lot of planning, trying to figure out how to code. We spent most of the summer learning to code. We were trying to sort out the details and write the business plan, things like that. A lot, since then has changed because we’ve had a major pivot, that was really our big, all of a sudden jump into things. People were like, “What? You’re going to Seattle to work on this thing?” That was fun.”
Q: How have you utilized resources available locally?
“We presented to the board of trustees through the WPI accelerator program in B-term last year. Todd Kehler’s boss was there and said we should present. They lined it up and we all presented to the Board of Trustees when they have their big meeting. I walked in thinking it was going to be 10-12 people, it turned out to be 50-60. That was fun, presenting to them. That was cool. That’s when I connected with Jeremy Hitchcock. It was just a really great experience pitching there.”
“This year was the Beta test version, they just started up. Basically you got $2-3k, It was a 7 week program and you basically did customer interviews. The idea is looking at the BMC and looking at customers. Do you actually address a need that they have? There was a class every other week with a presentation related to, you had to updates and stuff like that. With that money my team and I were able to go to the inbound marketing conference in Boston. Then we drove all the way down to D.C. We were there 3-4 days for the independent sector 2016 private conference. A bunch of nonprofits and big companies. A big convention with a lot of different talks, connected with people and did some customer interviews. That was really rewarding.”
Q: How to approach investors bottom line of making profit as a social entrepreneur?
“Tying it back to my high school senior project. Yeah it was going to be an investment, and sure there would be payback, but it was about more than that. The educational values that could come out of that about hydroponics, the nutrition, tying it to education, having that brand image and inspiring these young students to go into that, is worth far more than the money. Whenever I hear people talk about not doing solar panels because the payback period doesn’t make sense, I’m like “That’s not the entire point”. It’s a big frustration, that’s also why going into social entrepreneurship has been a big thing for me. Especially with Driply, you can fund the projects you care about. It’s not about the money, it’s about making an impact.”
Q: Any final words of advice from your experiences so far?
“Don’t wait to live life, live life now. People get caught up in the grind day-to-day but don’t spend enough time looking forward and thinking about their passions.You can be a social champion, and champion change. You can change the world, together we can build the future.”
Some of the above sections were paraphrased and may not represent the interviewee’s answer in its entirety.