Alumni Spotlight: Steve Martocci (H&SS '04), co-founder of GroupMe
As a young entrepreneur, Steve Martocci has gained confidence through his programming, allowing him to become the co-founder and creator of GroupMe, a mobile group messaging app. Learn more about Steve’s career and his advice to young entrepreneurs.
Before starting GroupMe, Steve had been working on another startup for three years and then joined as the lead software engineer for Gilt Groupe, which provides insider access to top de
signer labels at huge discounts. Although gaining invaluable experience at Gilt Groupe, Steve knew he was an entrepreneur at heart and wanted to run his own company.
Steve had been in talks with his long-time friend Jared Hecht about creating a startup. One day, Jared called Steve with an idea to create a way to remedy the issue of inefficient group communication when coordinating logistics for trips to music festivals. Steve was skeptical at first, but eventually came around after thinking about the potential impact the product could have.
In May 2010, Steve and Jared joined the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in New York, where they built the project in 24 hours, thus beginning GroupMe. The two then made the decision to leave their jobs and work on GroupMe fulltime after securing investor funding.
In August 2011, GroupMe was acquired by Skype, which was subsequently acquired by Microsoft in October 2011. Steve has also been an active advisor and investor in the New York startup scene, and in 2012 he founded SummerQAmp, a new nationwide initiative to train a new workforce in high-tech skills and create tech jobs for American youth.
Advice on Entrepreneurship
One of the greatest challenges that Steve learned as an entrepreneur was trying to do everything alone. In his first startup he did everything himself, shouldering all of the responsibility, and only later realizing that to be fully successful a partner would be welcome. Having a co-founder with a complementary skills set helps split both the work and the responsibilities. A co-founder also offers another point of view to situations where important decisions need to be made.
Steve’s second point was the importance of customer feedback as the best way to refine what you are doing. From emails to social media to in-person conversations, customer feedback is invaluable and entrepreneurs should always be listening to users and incorporating feedback into the product.
Steve also recalls his first entrepreneurship class, the first interactive hands-on class where Steve was given the freedom to build. In this class he recalls building a website about fantasy sports for television shows.
Apart from GroupMe’s success, Steve considers his greatest success to be finally beating Medieval Madness, a pinball machine. While at CMU, Steve frequently played Medieval Madness in the University Center. Flash-forward: instead of a conventional arbitrary gift to himself, such as a watch, Steve purchased his own Medieval Madness machine and has finally beat it!
The Alumni Spotlight Series is part of our quarterly e-newsletter. Check out our Spring 2013 E-Newsletter.