Reda Hicks, CEO of Gotspot, is joining the MassChallenge Texas in Houston 2020 program as an Alumni-in-Residence. Reda participated as a founder in the 2019 MCTX Austin cohort where she received a top startup honor. She has a passion for solving problems in her communities and is a member of the prestigious Presidential Leadership Program for her work on community-based emergency response. In this Q&A, Reda shares her story and the why behind her work, as well as her recommendations to this year’s MCTX Houston cohort on how to make the most of their experience this summer.
Q: Tell me about your startup.
A: GotSpot is a multi-sided platform that develops resilient economic communities by connecting businesses with underutilized space, like kitchens, warehouses, and studios, to entrepreneurs looking to scale their operations. Some of our earliest user stories were a handbag maker that needed a short-term space to manufacture an unusually large order, a home-based cake maker that needed a commercial kitchen to start selling into restaurants, and a yoga instructor coming into a community to teach a multi-day seminar. All these entrepreneurs need the right spot, at the right time, at an accessible price, and we connect them to Main Street businesses that now have a new revenue stream through space optimization.
Q: How does your background connect to your current work?
A: I spent over a decade as a bankruptcy attorney and saw way too many great local businesses going through distress because of rent challenges. I’m also a military spouse so at the same time I was part of a community saturated with entrepreneurs and freelancers because of the mobile lifestyle. When these innovative men and women move to new places or get new opportunities, the ability to find a kitchen, studio, or conference space can be make or break for their businesses. To me, seeing these simultaneous needs was a push to go out and create a resource for those that needed to find each other.
Q: How has MassChallenge impacted GotSpot?
A: During our time in the MassChallenge accelerator program, we started to investigate developing a program for community-based emergency response called RescueSpot. We were accepted into the Presidential Leadership Programs in December of 2019 and are now leveraging RescueSpot to help activate spaces for Covid-19 response activity.
Through MassChallenge, we also gained two extremely valuable mentors who have been helping us think critically through our strategy for the real estate side of our business model and have since expanded into the Austin market through collaboration with other MassChallenge alumni.
Q: As an incoming Alumni-in-Residence, what advice would you like to give to this year’s cohort of founders?
A: There are two pieces of advice I’d offer any founder about to embark on the MassChallenge journey. First, get to know as many people in your cohort as possible, both as founders and as humans. They’re a great resource for brainstorming, problem-solving, and even just commiseration on a tough day. Second, take full advantage of the mentors offering office hours and the instructors offering to be a resource. They mean it and they’ll invest in you.
Q: Why are you returning to MassChallenge as an Alumni-in-Residence?
A: I’m coming back to give back to the program and to be able to help other founders build great things in Texas. I learned so much from my time in the program and I’d like this year’s founders to approach me on how to build strategic partnerships with leaders in Houston and across the state, on legal and compliance for for-profit and non-profit organizations, and in putting together processes for maintaining functionality and a healthy dynamic in a startup team. I’m excited to meet you all!