2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Cottage Software, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Cottage Software

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

Website Link: Cottage.dev

Industry: Software

Founding Student Name(s): Neil Granberry

Brief Description of Solution: “99 Designs for Frontend Development.”

Cottage connects software development teams with too much work to learning developers hungry to prove themselves through a competition model.

Funding Dollars: $50k

What led you to launch this venture? In February, I was beginning to recruit for big tech product management roles. I reconnected with an old friend from undergrad who was launching Cottage. After some free consulting work in my “spare time,” he extended an offer to be a co-founder with him instead of taking my internship offer. I had bought into the idea at this point, so I was happy to join.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? We had an eventful summer, with the biggest accomplishment being that we launched a beta trial with 120+ real users that effectively proved some of our biggest hypotheses around the company. We had developers on the platform that spent upwards of 50+ hours interacting with our product while trying to build projects for our clients.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The MBA in general gives you a certain amount of space to think. Being in the workforce makes it hard to pull yourself out of the day-to- day and think bigger picture. Once you are in a program with amazing peers from different backgrounds, you understand that your small slice of the professional experience was only a tiny piece. You also start to see these big emerging trends, which can lead to exciting opportunities. I’m constantly picking up new ideas from classes, classmates, and events that get put on the roadmap of future opportunities for us to explore.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? That’s a good question, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it before. Sometimes, I’m not even sure I how I got myself on this path even though it looks purposeful outwardly, it really is more about my personal fit with what working in a startup is like instead of me emulating someone. There are many people who I deeply respect and look up to now, but when I started this, I really hadn’t met or heard of most of them.

 Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Launching the Venture, led by Dr. Michael Burcham, is the most directly applicable course I’ve taken when it comes to startups. Although many of the courses can be abstracted to take lessons from, Launching the Venture is basically an 8-week ideation bootcamp that gets you from concept to pre-seed pitch. From that course, I learned how to put myself in the investors shoes to see what great looks like for them, and to fully understand the level of preparation required to be viewed as an investable founding team.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Stacie Pawlicki, the Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Entrepreneurship (C4E), is not strictly speaking a professor, but the C4E has been incredibly supportive in making introductions with potential clients, providing advising resources from alumni, and even providing a substantial summer grant to support our endeavor.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? Nashville has been incredibly supportive and has a fast-growing tech community. There are multiple founders groups led by some wonderful people like Kelley Griggs or Haley Zapolski that create environments for founders to ask questions, get support, and make the connections they need to be successful.

The Wond’ry is also a critical part of our local entrepreneurial community. They have provided connections, working space, and advice throughout the process that is invaluable.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? We’re raising money to start our next chapter. Our goal is to build an incredible user experience that is 10X better at capturing user requirements to create web components than anything else. From there, that technical innovation will help us penetrate our market of software development agencies and then expand to other markets needing development capacity.


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