by Dylan Walsh, MIT Sloan News

In the fall of 2012, Brint Markle wanted to build the first piece of avalanche hardware built on prevention: If avalanche safety is good, avoidance is better. With two fellow MIT students, Markle, MBA ’14, co-founded Avatech, a company that sold handheld probes for assessing snowpack and slide risk.

After graduating from MIT Sloan, Markle continued to build Avatech from its new headquarters in Park City, Utah. “It was a really innovative product, and we attracted a lot of attention,” he said. At the same time, a growing contingent of consumers was enthusiastic about the information-sharing software that supported Avatech. With this sentiment in mind, and with a sudden change in funding, Markle decided to pivot.

“Driven by the end consumer, we rebranded to Mountain Hub,” Markle said. He was no longer CEO of a hardware company, but an information-sharing app that maps routes and conditions for almost any outdoor activity. “It was a really strategic decision to focus 100 percent behind the platform and sell the hardware business.”

Started in the spring of 2016, the shift was completed by September, with Markle now in the process of selling Avatech. He offered four key lessons from this transition.

Focus early and resolutely
Markle struggled with the decision to sell Avatech, and so he pushed it down the road. For a long time, this meant that he was building two companies at once, pushing sales of Avatech while laying the foundation for Mountain Hub.

“Before we fully rebranded, it was like training for a marathon and a 20-mile swim at the same time: We were stretched really thin and average performers in both races,” Markle said. “If you want to be successful and have impact as an entrepreneur, you have to focus.”

The block was mental. For starters, Avatech was his own creation, born from personal experience with an avalanche and countless hours of work; the company carried a lot of “emotional baggage.” This pushed Markle to convince himself that the hardware and software businesses were highly complementary. “But the reality was that the needs of these two customers was very different,” he said. There were employees on both sides of the company, and deciding to sell Avatech meant laying off staff members, many of whom were friends from the company’s earliest days.

In the end, though, Markle realized that he had to consider the situation from “the highest perspective possible: How do we make this company successfully fulfill its mission?” That clarified the answer. With the chance to do it all over again, Markle said he would focus exclusively on Mountain Hub earlier.

Read the full article at Sloan News