mcSquares designs and manufactures reusable Stickies sticky notes, whiteboard Tiles, personal whiteboard Surfaces and layered whiteboard Tablets
Please introduce yourself and your startup mcSquares to our readers!
Known for the “Art of Whiteboarding,” mcSquares designs and manufactures innovative products in Denver, CO. Their reusable Stickies sticky notes, whiteboard Tiles, personal whiteboard Surfaces and layered whiteboard Tablets empower communication, collaboration and creativity for teams, while eliminating information overload, distractions and distortions caused by technology.
Pre-pandemic, mcSquares were already widely used for communication, organization, collaboration and teaching in physical spaces. With the need for social distancing, their tools have found an increasing relevance as teachers, students and professionals connect with each other through collaboration technologies like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom.
Anthony Franco, CEO and founder of mcSquares is passionate about creating tools that people can leverage for their own enjoyment and enrichment of the world around them. He sold his user experience design firm, EffectiveUI, in 2012 to WPP. Franco believes in the power of observing behavior, watching and learning how people like to work and interact with the world around them to provide solutions they may not even know they need. mcSquares is a culmination of all this experience.
How did you get the idea of mcSquares?
My “aha moment” actually came after a meeting full of Fortune 500 executives, who had loud voices and really liked to hear themselves talk. After the meeting, a quiet saleswoman came up to me. She began talking about her ideas. I was impressed by how good they were and sad she hadn’t brought them forward in the meeting. I wondered how we could get people like her to speak up in meetings. It’s been my experience that the people with the best ideas are often the least likely to share them.
For the next meeting, I cut a whiteboard into little squares. I handed those personal dry-erase boards around the room and told folks to share their ideas using them. I was amazed at the difference it made. And I decided to build out a suite of offerings that allowed people to collaborate with each other in a way that allowed for all voices and ideas to be heard. That was how mcSquares was born.
Why did you decide to start with mcSquares?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been interested in observing how people interact with each other and the world at large. In recent years, I found that people were getting overwhelmed by technology. Every new innovation seemed to bring with it more information overload and more distraction. I started mcSquares to help cut through the clutter, and allow people to learn and collaborate in a natural and organic way.
What is the vision behind mcSquares?
With mcSquares, I want to address a very real problem that many of us face – that of being able to work and collaborate without being distracted by technology. Don’t get me wrong. Technology has its benefits. After all, we are using technology to cure cancer, build quantum computers and one day, inhabit Mars. But technology can also make you feel overwhelmed or distracted. And that’s why when we come up with the cure for cancer or build a quantum computer, you can bet there will have been a whiteboard in the room at every step along the way.
I’m excited to be starting this movement, where people can stop being distracted by technology and collaborate a whole lot better with each other. Think about the moment you pick up a dry-erase marker, open the cap, and press it against a smooth, white surface. There’s something magical that happens in that moment – it’s the moment when your ideas are introduced to the world.
How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?
The start was challenging on both the supply side and sales fronts. Running a consumer products company is much more challenging than running a software company. An entrepreneur has to take special care in thinking about their supply chain and sales channels (much more so than a software business).
On the manufacturing side, if your vendor fails, you fail. For example, my overseas manufacturer destroyed the mold for our flagship product. I made the agonizing decision to retool the product and bring manufacturing in-house. It’s the same story on the sales side, where you’re so dependent on channels like Amazon. The smallest tweak to their algorithm can have massive repercussions for your business.
Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is literally anyone and everyone. This is because no matter who you are or what you do, we all need to collaborate with other people.
What is the USP of your startup?
mcSquares is a radical improvement on centuries-old techniques for drawing on surfaces to communicate ideas and build community. We call this the “Art of Whiteboarding,” which includes an ecosystem of tools that empower collaboration while eliminating technological distortion and distraction.
Our eco-friendly product offerings include reusable sticky notes, desktop whiteboards and collaborative dry-erase Tiles that turn any room, virtual or physical, into a collaborative environment. Providing surfaces to draw, write and share ideas, our Stickies product family sticks to shiny surfaces without any adhesive, and can be reused as many as two-thousand times each. Paper sticky notes consume an estimated 250,000 trees a year; mcSquares also plants a tree for every order placed on Amazon or on our website.
To state it simply, we empower communication, collaboration and creativity for teams, while eliminating information overload, distractions and distortions caused by technology.
Can you describe your typical workday?
I get up around 4:00 in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and hammer out all the important things on my todo list. By 7 am my two daughters are awake and I get to spend a little time with them and my wife. At 9, the regular work day begins with leadership/sales/production meetings, 10 am is breakfast. I let my calendar dictate my afternoons based on the monthly “rocks” we have set (we run the company using Traction’s Entrepreneurial Operating System.) By 4:30 in the afternoon, I’m brain dead and have to check out for a bit. I’ll check in on emails and our eCommerce sales throughout the evening, but I do try to otherwise stay tuned in to the family until my 9:30 bedtime.
Where do you see yourself and your startup mcSquares in five years?
In five years, I hope to have helped create a movement that stays true to my original mission when I started the company. I want to have helped create a future where we can all contribute to innovation based on the strength of our ideas, and not on the loudness of our personality. It’s only then that we will have inclusive representation in classrooms, boardrooms and every collaborative experience in between.
What 3 tips would you give to founders?
A person wiser than me once told me to be comfortable with who you are. Don’t try and be or pretend to be something that you’re not. I’ve taken this lesson to heart. For example, I’m not the most organized person. It’s why I’ve learned to accept this about myself and surround myself with people who are more organized than I am. Understanding your strengths and complimenting them with people with other strengths is the purest definition of collaboration.
Second, you should be extremely disciplined in running your business. We were featured on Shark Tank in May 2020. But even prior to the show, we were laying best practices in place for taking our products directly to consumers with digital marketing and outside sales. We were already on a steep trajectory toward profitability.
Finally, I would say that you should spend time really distilling your message, so that you can explain your value to consumers succinctly and clearly. Don’t get mired in the nitty gritty when talking about your company. Instead, keep it simple.
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Thank you Anthony Franco for the Interview
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