Inside a very busy Martin Trust Center, MIT Storyteller In Residence, Dom Smith chats to Mechanical Engineering student Colin Webb, about his entrepreneurial projects (including Insemble), and his quest to understand people better.
Can you tell me a bit about who you are and what you do?
My name’s Colin Webb, and I’m a Senior in Mechanical Engineering at MIT. I got into the culture of what MIT is right now through my High School which had a lot of robotics programmes. I’m on this course to initially understand, and build cool technology. I love working on these breakthrough projects and new technological developments. I am a people person, over anything else. I wanted to get involved in things that would make me understand people better. So, in Freshman year, I became the Senior Class President, but then stayed throughout my four years to now being the Senior Class President. Now, I am focused on Entrepreneurship, in the sense that, while going through MIT, I wanted to understand technology and learn about Artificial Intelligence. I am trying to learn about what drives people. My classes are about that right now. I am taking Chinese and Psychology, and reading more to better learn about people.
What do you want to achieve with your idea going forward?
Our immediate vision for Insemble is to become the arbitrator between Landlords, Malls and Retailers. As a Landlord, you want to make the most valuable space you can make, you want to have foot traffic into your space, and tenants who are happy and pulling in customers. If we can tell these Mall owners de-risk those millions of dollars that they put into these decisions, then that makes every single space more customisable to the demographic. That makes these places successful as well as Retailers, because then we can tell them where they should go, and what experience they can provide for their stores. We want to get solid Mall and Retail partners, and have an platform that can accurately, to some degree recommend tenants, and experiences based on the consumer population.
What key tips do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be kind, and listen, as an entrepreneur, you’re going to need to find out what people need and that can actually be very difficult. It will require a lot of listening, and self-checking, because you might make some assumptions and then figure out that people don’t actually need the things that you are assuming they do, and being able to evolve is very powerful. A lot of people in the entrepreneurial space can have this “Champion” mentality, and you don’t really want to do that if you’re trying to get to know people and really work to solve their problems.
The second thing is having that persistent mentality where you’re not trying to push people aside, but continuing to be persistent and pushing through despite hearing negative feedback, to get to where you need to be, or get the impact that you want is extremely important. No matter how many instances of ‘No’ that you hear, take a step back, adjust and continue to push forward and eventually you will run, and finish that race.
Listen to the full interview here: