When I was in the first grade, I wanted to get my single mom a Valentine’s Day gift. A kid in my neighborhood had a heart-shaped balloon that he would sell me for a dime, but the problem was that I had no money. I did, however, have two Starbursts on hand, and he accepted my offer for an exchange. His reaction showed me how much kids liked candy more than I did, and from this original barter transaction, I started my neighborhood candy business. This business became my first entrepreneurial venture, and grew to managing concessions at little league games. My mom has enjoyed Valentine’s Day gifts ever since.
I’ve come a long way from inventory runs to Sam’s Club, but I’ve kept my zeal for tackling problems and “making stuff that works.” If a microwave is broken, it’s not thrown away until I get my hands on it.
This love of problem solving led me to study Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry at Yale. Eventually my sights expanded from making widgets to wanting to make organizations work better, and this pursuit led me to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
I decided five years before applying that I wanted to go to Stanford to start a business, and I immediately felt at home the moment I arrived. (In the Uber ride from SFO to Palo Alto, the driver was pitching me his app.) Dreaming, reaching, going for it — this was all normal at Stanford.
The same infectious passion I saw at Yale was omnipresent on campus: I met countless classmates starting companies; musicians and writers perfecting their craft; scientists conducting life-changing research. It was incredible. I’d walk around campus and feel like anything I could imagine was possible.
It was this entrepreneurial spirit, in part, that inspired me to start my own company when I graduated in 2016: Keokit, an e-commerce company that simplifies back-to-school shopping.
During Admit Weekend at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in April of 2014, I first met Pando’s future co-founder Eric Lax. From day one he had an inspiring, insatiable love for startups, and we immediately connected with this shared love. Over the next few years, we talked about the company that would eventually become Pando: a tool to support individuals in high-risk, high-volatility careers.
When Eric finally launched Pando in 2017, he shared the final iteration on his original idea: Pando would introduce a new product, income pooling. Income pooling would allow a group of individuals to contribute a percentage of their future earnings to a pool, earnings that would be distributed equally among all participants.
Pando, through income pooling, would help people like me — startup founders, entrepreneurs, people with a “go for it” mentality — to combine powers with other like minded people, and help increase the odds of succeeding by working together.
As soon as I heard about income pooling, I knew it was right for me. I thought back to telling my mom — a nurse — that I was going to decline a job offer and launch my own company immediately after my MBA. Her initial response was simply: “Marty, you’re asthmatic. How are you going to get health insurance?” My mom’s reluctance is right — starting a company is risky and hard. I can also say it’s sobering and lonely, even after making many close friends in school.
Pooling has helped make the uniquely entrepreneurial experience less lonely, and it has surrounded me with others who are challenging the status quo, solving problems, and working to change the world.
When they’re successful, I’m not only happy for them, but I get to personally share in that success financially, which makes many causes for celebration. Moreover, as each poolmate reaches new achievements, it bolsters the collective performance of all the connected members. When one member of my pool wins, we all win.
My “go for it” attitude lives on; my license plate is literally “DRMCHSG” (dream chasing).
Pando not only empowers me to pursue my own dreams but they also make that experience joyful in meaningful ways. I’m currently in two pools, and I plan on joining a handful more. I’m excited to see what other problems I take on and audacious dreams I decide to pursue with the support of my current and future poolmates.