James Albis – an MBA alumnus from the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) – has just launched an Uber for the snow removal industry.
He’s spearheading the development of SnoHub, a sharing economy platform which connects homeowners with vetted snow removal professionals through their smartphones. The aim: to revolutionize the $14 billion snow removal market in North America.
James was working for the Sydney 2000 Olympics’ organization committee when he decided to snub top-ranked schools in the US for an international MBA experience at AGSM.
After his MBA, he returned home to the US and spent over a decade working as a strategic consultant for technology startups and advising new generations of up-and-coming business executives. Then, in 2016, he decided to go it alone and start his own tech business.
How did the idea to start up SnoHub come about?
Ideas come from pain points; inherent problems that can only be solved through a new paradigm shift. In Snowbelt cities, the problem stemmed from an in adequate supply of labor to meet the needs of homeowners when they needed service.
Identifying a ready, willing, and able new workforce who could tap into and out of the marketplace was the logical solution. Other companies – Airbnb and Uber - have solved the very same problem - threading an inefficient $14 billion market could only be done with technology. The idea of paying people with cash with no record of any transactions or wondering where providers are, is yesterday’s news.
What do you hope to achieve?
There are two main objectives: onboarding service providers and getting new customers. I’m getting ready to expand my company from a capital raising and staffing perspective, and will be looking to tap into the AGSM network!
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
Many people love the idea of starting a company. To them, the perception is: I want to work for myself and I don’t want to work for anybody else. The reality is that you work for your investors, your customers, and your employees. A true leader leads from the front. You can’t expect to tell people to go and do something unless you are prepared to do it yourself.
You need to find a niche and exploit a market weakness, expecting to compete on price or better products is a slugfest. You need to have some type of competitive advantage.
And don’t expect an investor is going to fund your business on an idea. There are several important things investors look at: the entrepreneur, the team, the product, the market, and the ability to execute. Building a company does not come from the amount of money you raise. Raising too much capital can be as dangerous as raising too little.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at AGSM?
I decided to embark on my journey towards an MBA early in my career. I knew an MBA would help provide me with the technical skills needed to build, manage, or grow a company, regardless of whether I took a traditional corporate path or the more unconventional path of starting my own company.
I wanted a program that had a wider depth and breadth than those of US business schools - and the diversity of AGSM’s network is truly global. I was working for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games at the time, and I wanted to remain in Sydney and pursue my MBA, which I started part-time and then pivoted over to full-time.
How have you profited from the AGSM MBA?
An MBA is a door or a ladder to higher way of thinking; it provides the discipline to look at the macro and micro level issues every good leader needs to be successful. My value or credibility in the marketplace has increased significantly because of the AGSM MBA.