Montana Butsch is the founder of spotivity
, a double-sided marketplace that not only supports after school programs to increase enrollment and participation rates but also enables teens and their parents to make the best decisions about how to use time outside of school. spotivity removes key logistical barriers to entry and promotes positive networking opportunities while providing a platform for marketers to engage with a key demographic market. This self-sustainable dynamic app will ultimately evolve into a lifestyle/social tool and grow in importance as the user ages.
What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Prior to spotivity, I was the founder and CEO of Chicago Training Center – a sports non-profit organization which has served thousands of inner city children in Chicago through the sport of rowing (I was an Oxford boatrace member 2002-4).Through this work I have appeared on CBS Nightly News, been featured in the NYTimes, have twice been interviewed on iHeartMedia, and was a 2017 TEDx speaker (IE University). In terms of education – I am Founder Institute graduate, hold a BA from University of Pennsylvania (PPE Major), an MBA from IE Brown, read Education Research at Oxford University (Teddy Hall), and am an Executive Scholar at the Kellogg School of Management.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because this route was the best way for me to see the things I wished to exist in the world come to life. I am a pretty driven self-starter and I look at obstacles as challenges to overcome rather than roadblocks. I take enjoyment out of finding interesting solutions to tricky problems.
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
An individual that takes it upon his/herself to bring a new ‘thing’ to the world.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
For spotivity – over ten years ago when I was part of conversations at the city level for a similar tool and the group at hand did not know how to properly wrestle with the concept. I just could not tackle the project until my time at Chicago Training Center came to end.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
In no particular order:
A level of self-belief that others might find unreasonable
A clear personal knowledge base that supports the directions you want travel
An openness to humble exploration as you don’t know what you don’t know – as such, you don’t know everything
Like raising kids – its take a village. A certain amount of self-awareness and humility is needed to bridge knowledge and experience gaps. Obviously, you need to be a leader and have expertise and a clear vision, but execution often requires the help of others and figuring out how to secure that support is key.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
The ability to pursue a passion that provides clear meaning to my life
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
I read Richard Brandson’s “Losing my Virginity” just after high school and I found his story to be very motivating. At the time, I had a huge interest in music (ultimately. I was a radio DJ while at Oxford) so that angle of his story was the most impactful to me then. However, as I grew up and experienced more, the underlying tenants of how he pursed passions thoughtfully and fully has become a defining characteristic of mine. Many of my attitudes towards next step planning were forged by my thoughts on that book and Richard’s life story.
If you had 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I’d like to discuss with Richard (preferably over a pint in the Turf) about how we could systematically and positively impact large groups of young people across the world through the lens of access.
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
The common mistake of an entrepreneur – and a failing of mine – is the personal thought that others would care about your cause as much as you do. I’ve found that this is never the case. But, I have also learned that that is an unrealistic expectation to have anyway. An entrepreneur is by nature unreasonable so the goal of that individual should be to translate a vision in manner that is befitting of the one receiving the message. Using puns to explain a point: there are many ways to ‘skin the cat’ and you also need to know that you cannot ‘un-ring the bell’ – so I have learned that a lot of time is needed to find out a way to translate your own vision into one that speaks to the target audience in a manner that they can embrace and own. At the end of the day – it is not the message that truly matters; it is what results from the action created that does.
How have you funded your ideas?
Yes. The Chicago Training Center was fully funded and has been in operation for over 13 years. spotivity is funded at seed stage (Chicago is out BETA) and we are imminently closing our current funding round.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
spotivity became a Founder Institute portfolio company and that has provided key validation. Beyond that, we have been featured in quite a few media outlets for our efforts.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
The connections that come from the network are invaluable and last with you your entire career / life.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them? (Anything Oxfordshire especially!)
I would advise them to look at their local incubator resources – in Oxford that would be the Oxford Foundry, SAID Business School, Oxford Entrepreneurs, Oxford University Innovation and Enterprising Oxford along with other labs that I might not know about. A key early learning for all entrepreneurs is that you don’t know what you don’t know. So use your initial few months filling those gaps. Centers like these are teaming with people that can help gap fill – and really help you along your entrepreneurship journey.
Any last words of advice?
A quote from a recent interview I sat for:
“Starting your own venture is hard. Like really hard. But it is also fun and very rewarding. You need to understand that few, if any, will pour as much into your startup as you do. So the trick for any entrepreneur is to set realistic and achievable goals for others so that they can be a value-add to your work process rather than a hindrance to growth. Managing the complexities of uncertainty is a key overriding characteristic of the successful entrepreneur, so better get used to that early on in your process.”
This seems to wrap it up well.
Best of luck!