As the director of product in his last role, Josh Martow, MBA 23, dreaded nagging his team members to make sure work got done. When he arrived at Berkeley Haas, he started mapping out an idea to solve his own problem, which led to the launch of startup Chaser.
In this interview, Martow explains how Chaser makes people more productive.
Could you give us a quick synopsis of what Chaser does?
Chaser follows up with your co-workers on the things they need to do. There are other project management tools out there that are supposed to solve this problem, but they break down because most teams struggle to constantly keep them up to date; no one wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I’m going to check Trello.”
With Chaser, you can delegate a task to anybody from within Slack. Chaser sends them the task, collects progress updates, and follows up until it’s complete. It works like magic because your co-workers never have to open Chaser. They don’t have to sign up for it or even know what it is! Their tasks just arrive in their inbox, and they can click “complete” right there.
How did you come up with the idea?
At my last job, so much of my work as a manager required making sure work was being taken across the finish line, which meant following up with people a lot. It’s not fun to be a nag and feel like you’re a babysitter to your team. It’s also not productive. And on the other end, no one likes to constantly receive these types of messages.
We’re doing with Chaser what Google did for calendars.
We’re doing with Chaser what Google did for calendars. It’s amazing that my friends and co-workers can put events right on my calendar for me and all of the sudden our calendars are synced up. Why doesn’t this exist for to-do lists? Imagine if your co-workers helped populate your to-do list for you and all you had to do was hit “complete” or “change date” and it would reflect on their end too, just like when you RSVP on Google Calendar, or move an event around.
How does a manager use Chaser?
So anyone can add Chaser to a Slack workspace. Once it’s added, just type “/todo,” tag the assignee, write the task, and include a due date, if there is one. The task will appear in your direct messages and Chaser will take it from there! You can follow along in your dashboard, which also lives inside Slack, while Chaser goes out and makes sure it gets done.
For now we’re actually offering Chaser for free, so everyone can give it a try here.
What was your background before coming to Haas?
Before Haas, I was the first employee at a startup Thriver Technologies. I got to wear every hat there. Throughout my time there I led sales, product, growth, and business intelligence. I was just running around doing whatever I could to help set up everything the company needed. We grew it to 150 people and raised a Series B, and after five years, I really got bit by that entrepreneurship bug and decided I wanted to do this myself. I ended up teaming up with the director of engineering and we set off to start our own thing.
How has Haas helped you as an entrepreneur?
The two biggest things for me have been extracurriculars and classmates. For extracurriculars, some free accelerators connect you with mentors, help you hone your pitch, and help you figure out your business. After competing in one of the Demo Days, one of the judges, who was also a VC, ended up putting in $100,000 after hearing the pitch.
But my favorite thing about Haas is the Haasies. There are just a ton of great people who are interested in and want to talk about startups, and everyone comes from such diverse professional backgrounds. Just having people to bounce ideas around with is just so valuable.
What made you want to get an MBA to launch a company rather than launch without going to business school?
I didn’t study business as an undergrad and I wanted formal business training. I also needed time to develop more clarity and conviction around what we wanted to build.
But also, you hear that business school is a great place to start a company. And it’s 100% true.
Not having a full-time job gives you the freedom to explore, and being around Haasies realy helps you with that exploration. Not to mention access to the resources available, the accelerators, and being in the Bay Area. All of these things kind of just make it the perfect place to start a company.
What advice do you have for people considering launching a business while earning an MBA?
The No. 1 piece of advice is to cut out the things that are not 100% critical, and don’t succumb to FOMO when you see classmates doing things you just frankly won’t have time for. I definitely did not appreciate this enough at the start and was signing up for more than I could handle and would often be disappointed when I needed to miss out on things. It would have been a lot easier if I came into it understanding that you can’t do it all while you’re trying to get a startup off the ground.
That said, it’s a great experience, and it’s immensely valuable to be in school learning while thinking about your business and applying the things in class to your business every day.