2015 Best MBAs: Michael Martin

MichaelMartin - HBS-PoetsAndQuants

Michael Martin


Harvard Business School

How is this for a fish out of water story? A Carleton College graduate from Rockport, Indiana, heads to Harvard Business School and becomes one of the school’s most decorated entrepreneurs. That’s the story of Michael Martin, whose RapidSOS startup idea has brought him multiple awards ranging from first place at the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition (worth $50,000) to being named the best mobile technology at the MIT 100K entrepreneurship competition. In addition, Martin served as co-president of the Energy and Environment Club, along with participating in the Harvard Graduate School Leadership Institute, Tech Club, Social Enterprise Club, Investment Club, and the Entrepreneurship Club.

Age: 28

Hometown: Rockport, Indiana

Undergraduate School: Carleton College

Undergraduate Degree: International Relations

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Braemar Energy Ventures, Senior Associate; MS Consulting, Co-Founder; Piper Jaffray, Analyst

Where did you intern during the summer of 2014? RapidSOS (Start-up that I co-founded)

Where will you be working after graduation? RapidSOS

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I toured the Harvard Innovation Lab during Accepted Students’ weekend – the place was alive with energy and creativity – what an incredible place to build a company in!”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…probably a much less successful entrepreneur!”

What are your long-term professional goals? From an early age I’ve been an entrepreneur (starting my first business in high school). Along the way I have become a big believer in the power of technology to transform our lives. In 1798, British scholar Thomas Malthus predicted in his “An Essay on the Principle of Population” that the earth had reached its carrying capacity; over 6 billion people later, Malthus could never have predicted how technology would transform our lives. I want to focus on the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship to solve large social problems. RapidSOS, the start-up that I co-founded, aims to do this.

Favorite Courses: Public Entrepreneurship; Business, Government and the International Economy; Managing, Organizing and Motivating for Value

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? During my two years of business school, my father fell off the roof of my childhood home while trying to clear snow off the roof. For two hours he lay in the freezing driveway with a shattered hip and broken wrist – but was unable to reach 911 from his cell phone. For the last two years, I’ve been working with a team from HBS / MIT to transform 911 (911 today is a 1960s system that was never designed for mobile calls). Over the last two years we have worked tirelessly to build RapidSOS to transform emergency communication and transform millions of lives annually.

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? I am extremely grateful for the inspiration of my entire hometown community (parents, teachers, friends). I grew up in one of the poorest counties in Indiana. Despite this environment, I was enveloped in support from empowering teachers, family, and community members. From building a car that set new records for fuel economy to supporting a classmate after a terrible accident – our community rallied in every way we could to help each other. The result was that I left with a perspective that anything is possible through community. If a group of high school hicks from Southern Indiana can set a new record for automotive fuel economy at 1,525 miles per gallon, what couldn’t we do? With age and experiences has come a greater appreciation of the magnitude of global challenges like poverty and climate change, but I remain confident in our collectively ability to solve these challenges.

Why did you choose this business school? Diversity in background, culture, and opinion but commonality in passion and purpose. Harvard is one of the largest business schools in the country, which creates great diversity at the school in terms of backgrounds, opinions, ethnicities, and culture. The students and faculty challenged my assumptions across so many areas, creating a holistic learning experience. From my strategy professor who once jumped on the chalkboard to emphasize a point to my finance professor who would need to towel off in the middle of class from running all over to explain a point, everything at HBS is done with passion and purpose. This energy is channeled throughout the student body and perhaps best summarized when HBS asks each of its students to reflect on this line from the Pulitzer Prize- winning poem by Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

What did you enjoy most about business school? The People. More than 900 people enter HBS every year – most as complete strangers from all corners of the Earth. Yet within days you start to feel a strong sense of community from your section, professors, clubs, and organizations.  The HBS Section experience is an interesting social engineering project, where it’s hard not to leave with 90 new lifelong friends. I’ve debated politics with these people, talked about race and identity, backpacked through the California desert, built a start-up business, explored new lands and cultured, and shared countless ideas and experiences.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? Sitting at lunch with a Ghanaian entrepreneur during my HBS FIELD 2 program. My team was tasked with understanding how we could inject more capital into the Ghanaian market using pension fund savings. For three days we had hundreds of conversations with locals in Accra – understanding how they were using capital around their homes, schools, and businesses. The experience highlighted how much opportunity existed in places like Accra to help people by freeing capital flows and unlocking opportunity in the private sector.

Fun fact about yourself: I was born in a minivan on the way to the hospital (as my parents put it – I’ve always been in a hurry!)

Favorite book: Freakonomics

Favorite movie: Lions for Lambs

Favorite musical performer: Florida Georgia Line / Nickelback (haha – my friends make fun of my musical tastes)

Favorite television show: The West Wing

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere that I haven’t experienced before!

What are your hobbies? I love anything outdoors – hiking, mountain biking, running, kayaking – anything active outdoors!

Twitter Handle: @MichaelJ_Martin

What made Michael such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015?  

“Michael is such an excellent example of how MBA entrepreneurs can leverage the people, opportunities, and resources available to HBS students. He immediately recognized that this was a place that could bring his entrepreneurship to the next level and proceeded to take advantage of every opportunity that HBS has to offer in this space. Beyond this, I also know Michael as a leader of a student organization. Two things impress me most about Michael– his endless positive energy and his accountability. He demonstrated over the entire year that as a leader he would accept full accountability for the decisions and activities of his club, and repeatedly got personally involved to make sure that promises were delivered upon. HBS is proud to count among its graduates such a talented entrepreneurial leader who demonstrates exemplary personal accountability. Michael will be making a difference in the world for years to come.”

– Mike Murphy, associate director of MBA Student & Academic Services

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