'Don’t be afraid to be a good person' A conversation with Michael Markesbery

November 2018

We sat down with Michael Markesbery when he returned to the Farmer School for Startup Weekend this fall to talk about OROS, his time at Miami, and what his future holds.

What’s it like coming back to Startup Weekend after being a participant?

“It’s really cool to see the amount of support that all the students are getting through the process, because it was the same thing for me. I have a vivid memory of going through the process and having select mentors just grill us on certain questions over and over again, ‘Hey, what’s your problem statement? What’s your solution? Who’s your customer?’ All these things that you might not think about prior to this event. It’s cool to see the students get the same, if not way better mentorship than we had.”

Do you enjoy being the mentor now?

“You know, I don’t think I’ll ever be as good as some of the mentors I had, but it’s definitely cool to go in and try my best with some of the students.”

How did you start OROS?

“We launched our Kickstarter in 2015. Rith and I started working on aerogel during our sophomore year of college, so like, 2012.”

What’s that journey been like?

“It’s been an amazing whirlwind. Someone asked me the other day, ‘What’s it like to be an entrepreneur?’ and I found it to be a really weird question because you never think about it. For us, one day we were climbing the tallest mountain in the northeast Alps and looking like the Michelin man, tons of bulk, tons of layers, and thinking, ‘There has to be a way to cut the bulk, cut the layers, still stay warm.’”

“We came back to the U.S, and through a series of events, found Aerogel, thought ‘Oh, here’s the perfect solution. Why don’t we try to make it work?’ Then we learned why aerogel didn’t work in apparel, fixed that problem, then we launched it on Kickstarter. And it was one step after another after another after another. And then every once in a while, you pick your head up and think ‘Gosh, we did all this stuff.’ For me, that happened recently. I looked up and realized, ‘We have this amazing team of 12 people, we just raised this venture funding.’”

What’s the most important thing you took away from your time at the Farmer School?

“The first is the network that you build at this school is outstanding. OROS would not be here if it weren’t for the advisers, investors, mentors that are all Miami grads. It’s amazing. It’s a network that I never expected, knew about, or really thought about while I was a student on campus. You see it all matriculate over time, and it’s mind-blowing. That by far has been the most amazing thing, the amazing network.”

“A lot of the mentorship that we received within the entrepreneurship department. There were very specific lessons that I remember getting, whether from Mark Lacker or Jim Friedman, which have really impacted my life.”

What do you think students should take away from the Farmer School?

“Regardless of whether you’re going to start a business, the alumni network, the professors here, there’s an immense amount of knowledge that you can tap into. And don’t forget about the importance of the network throughout your time here and as you’re graduating. Don’t forget about the value of forming relationships.”

Where do you go from here?

“When we started OROS, our goal was to make a long-sleeve T-shirt that you can wear in subfreezing weather and still stay warm, completely get rid of the necessity of outerwear entirely. That’s one of the things that we’re working on, and that’s when I’ll know that OROS has started to reach its mission. We want to completely change the way people view outerwear.”

What would it take for you to feel like you’ve ‘made it’?

“It’s funny, I remember being in college, thinking ‘When we reach X million dollars in revenue’, or have a team of this size, and think “Oh, we made it!” And then you get there, and you realize “I haven’t. There’s still …’ So I think there’s a continual gap between the company and the company you want to be, just as the person you are and the person you want to be. I think the people who succeed in life have this willingness and drive to keep pursuing and get better every day. As sad as it might sound, I don’t think you ever really reach that point of ‘I made it.’ I think that’s when you start losing and other people start passing you.”

What advice would you give a student today?

“I think the advice I give is, don’t be afraid to be a good person. I think a lot of people forget the importance of having a true interest in other people. And smiling. And core values that might get lost along the way, especially as you’re trying to impress other people when you’re right out of college. It goes a long way, especially as you build relationships with people.”

Read: Forbes article about OROS
Michael Markesbury at Startup Weekend Michael Markesbury at Startup Weekend Michael Markesbury at Startup Weekend Michael Markesbury at Startup Weekend Rithvik Venna and Michael Markesbury