Who are you and what are you up to?
Mesh is a free app that helps people communicate and coordinate for group activities and events, especially travel. Although it will only initially be available as a free iOS event app (Android and web platforms coming soon), it is really more of a specialized social network than just an app.
I, Ryan Ball, founded the company and right now it is just myself and some programmers, as well as my investors who help out wherever they can. Everyone involved is part of the team.
What’s your story?
I came up the idea in November 2012 after being frustrated with how unorganized my Thanksgiving travels were. I thought “there has to be an app or something for this” but after searching and not finding much competition to the concept, I decided to expand on the idea. From that point on, I spent all of my free time creating the business plan and fine tuning the concept until I reached a point where it was ready to pitch to investors, but first I spent a few months vetting programmers around DFW. Once I found a group I liked with a fair rate, I raised the money I needed to get started and now we are about to launch the beta.
I’ve always been an entrepreneur, so a lot of the motivation comes naturally to me, but the scalability and potential for return of the venture really got me moving. Everything made so much sense, and it was a ‘now or never’ kind of situation. I haven’t looked back once, and I have never been happier.
What sets you apart from others in your industry?
The most unique aspect of Mesh is its community features. If you look at personal travel apps that only organize plans for one person, Mesh takes that one step further by basically creating a shared itinerary platform where an entire group can see all the itinerary and travel information of all the other people in the group, PLUS they can communicate with each other, split costs for the trip, view the entire trip/event as one large timeline, and more. It reduces the need for group texts and long email chains, effectively reducing some of the stress and annoyance with planning or attending an event with an unorganized group.
But fitting it into an industry is hard because its sort of a frankenstein of several different industries: event planning, travel planning, and a social network. From the travel and event planning point of view, its still the community that makes it unique. No one else seems to have really implemented the community concept effectively yet. Plus, Mesh also provides the opportunity for “crowd-planning” because multiple, or all, users can be designated as “hosts” (admins) and can plan and organize the event together.
From a social network point of view, you can think of it as a more specialized version of Facebook that’s designed to avoid some of the more narcissistic features of Facebook. Mesh is a closed network whereas Facebook is more open. Mesh’s privacy features are key to making event posting more effective, and the absence of them on Facebook, as well as some key features that are unique to Mesh, is a reason why performing the same activities on Facebook would be more difficult to acheive.
How is it going?
It’s going great!!
Programming is a little slower than projected, but that is usually the case. The iOS beta should be available very soon, and it will be 64 bit compliant for the iPhone 6+. Our landing page is up (www.mesh-app.co), and we will probably have finished, or at least be halfway through, our brand film by the time this Member Spotlight it released. The film is going to be really cool. We are all excited.
In regards to fundraising, we have made a lot of progress and have what we have projected to be enough funds to successfully launch Mesh and get it to the next level. We’ve also made some very lucrative and powerful contacts along the way that will become useful during the future of the company.
What are your biggest challenges?
Having only an idea on paper that I made up in my head to raising what many would consider to be a whole lot of money while I have very little programming experience and not much to show other than the idea itself was a big challenge. But I like challenges because they make me work harder than I thought I could, and the effectiveness of the projections and research I compiled is proof of that, I think. We were also lucky to find investors that believe in Mesh and believe that I can make it a success. I look forward to making Mesh great for all of us.
For the future, getting a lot of users will obviously be a challenge, although this is the kind of concept that could potentially grow through a lot of word of mouth. I also think, simply based on my previous professional experiences in multiple industries, that finding truly quality employees will be difficult, BUT, because of that and the fact that I respect that anyone coming to work for a startup like this is taking a risk as well, I am prepared to put together some attractive offers in order to retain quality employees. Hopefully by starting to meet with potential future employees early on we will be able to take our time and make the right selections.
I also think that knowing the right time to pivot will be a delicate situation, should it present itself in the future. I try to stay up to speed and well read on current trends and industry precedents so that I will be ready to make the right decisions in the future.
What are the two most valuable things you have learned since starting your business?
It’s not so much what I have learned, but what has been reinforced in regards to what I ‘know’ and understand. Two examples of that are:
The human condition will always be present, and if you don’t plan for it and work around it you will have a much more difficult and frustrating experience, and possibly even fail.
Always be open-minded and prepared to adapt or pivot. This applies to every step of the way, especially with fund raising. Chances are, it’s not going to go the way you originally wanted it to.
What’s your favorite part of your work?
That it’s mine and I chose it. I have no one telling me to get out of bed in the morning nor do I have a boss to report to, yet I still get all my work done which I have created for myself, and furthermore, love doing. I’m very excited to see Mesh continue to grow.
What is the most time-consuming part of your work?
It’s usually tedious things that eat up a lot of my time. Some emails can take a couple hours to respond properly to, especially with investors and board members. I hate accounting/data entry, but I’ve found a way, with the help of a fellow Common Desk member, to mitigate that process. (Talk to Elizabeth Adams if you’d like help with that.)
Photoshop was a little tedious at first as well, but I am getting the hang of it.
Do you get much free time? How do you spend it?
Yes and no. I make sure to allot myself enough time to take care of what I think is important to have as a base: working out and getting enough sleep. Working out makes your body and mind able to handle high stress situations with a clear head, and a minimum amount of sleep will give you the energy to focus. I’m a big believer in spontaneous naps—hopefully Mesh will have nap pods one day! I pretty much just work around those things and get as much done as I can in between sleep and workouts. Not every day is like this, however, because I do have a bad habit of working through meals or late into the night, potentially preventing me from getting to the gym or getting to sleep at a decent hour. I also like to keep momentum up and will work through the weekend if I am on a roll. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, so I’ll grab my laptop or iPad and work or perform research until I fall back asleep. All in all, some days I do nothing but work on Mesh and work out, other days I don’t have much to do for Mesh so I chill, play guitar, explore, or go out in the evenings with my friends. I prefer to leave the weekends open, if I can, because that is when all my friends are usually available to hang out. They all have traditional 9-5 jobs for the most part.
Where are you going from here?
We are going to focus on Dallas initially, promoting simultaneously to college kids and industry people who can benefit from Mesh: event planners, wedding planners, or anyone associated with an organization. Then we will expand to other industries and cities around the country, and do a big international push in 2-3 years. The international push will most likely require a massive infrastructure expansion along with capital injections, but if we are having to deal with that, then we are heading in the right direction. We have a lot of different ways we can run with this and a lot of different revenue models planned that will still keep Mesh simple and convenient for the users. Step one is getting the users, though, and I am very excited to see how they will use it.
I’ve fought pretty hard to keep Mesh in Dallas, and I have turned down some offers to move to other cities. There are a lot of good entrepreneurs in Dallas, as well as a lot of potential investors, but they are unfamiliar with startups and software-related ventures. I like to think of it as a middle school dance with the girls and guys on either side of the dance floor and no one is dancing. They need someone to show them how, a flagship. I’m not proclaiming that Mesh is going to be THAT flagship, but it certainly can’t be if Mesh goes to an overcrowded tech community somewhere else. Any success Mesh sees will benefit other Dallas startups, I think. By leaving, I believe we would potentially be weakening the startup community here, and I want to see it succeed. All that being said, I plan to keep our headquarters in Dallas, specifically Deep Ellum. So, once we outgrow Common Desk we will just move somewhere down the street.
How are you thinking of expanding your team?
I plan to expand in the coming months. I’d like to add some marketing people first, and possibly some additional programmers, but I am ALWAYS on the look out for disciplined, honest, hardworking people. I like the “Jim Collins approach” of finding good people and then creating a position for them, as opposed to the other way around. I’m currenlty working with SMU to get some interns for social media, blogging, etc.
Anyone interested can shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, which is also on our website. Or just come talk to me. I’m always open to meeting with someone interested in Mesh. I may not be able to talk right at that moment, but I’ll make time during the week at the very least.
What is the impact of your business/ industry on your local community? On society?
For society, Mesh will make organizing and attending events, activities, and travel easier, simpler, and more convenient. Mesh will reduce stress and, as a result, allow people to enjoy themselves more!
Locally, Mesh will provide jobs. Also, since the best way to get someone to use your app is to give them a reason to, Mesh will be throwing parties. Lots of fun parties.
Why did you decide to office at The Common desk?
Location, cool space, and the industry diversity of tenants. I’ve visited most of the co-working spaces in Dallas and Common Desk (in my opinion) is the best. I’ve also worked in Deep Ellum before and I like the area.
Are you working on a Mac or a PC?
What are two mobile apps that you couldn’t work without?
Google Maps, and a new task manager app called Priority Matrix, which has been very helpful in the short amount of time I have had it. Also, I expect Mesh will also soon be very useful!!
What’s your favorite place to eat in Deep Ellum?