Startup Life: Mark Travis, from Business Attire to Blue Jeans
Although I have been working with Mark for over a year now, I find there is never a limit to his stories. Always genuine and always with a hint of humor. After all, he has spent his life telling stories, he’s had some practice. Although there are many fun perks to working here at DailyUV… I’ve gotta tell you he hit the nail in the head with those garlic fries and being able to wear blue jeans. Read on to find out what the heck I’m talking about.
How did you come to join the DailyUV team?
It all began over lunch at the famed local eatery formerly known as the Tip Top Cafe. I was publisher of the Valley News, and some guy named Watt Alexander e-mailed me out of the blue to say he had a very different idea about making the Internet work better for people and businesses in small communities like ours.
I figured he was a crackpot, but I’m always up for the world’s best garlic fries. It turned out I really liked him and his idea, so we talked from time to time as he developed it. When he got funding to start what is now Subtext Media, the company behind DailyUV, I decided to sign on.
How has the work you do changed from your first month working here to now?
I came to work on Day One dressed like an actual working professional, so the first thing that changed was my wardrobe. Blue jeans! I was so happy.
My first big task was running focus groups with Rob Gurwitt to see if our core concept -- bringing local content from lots of places together in one online resource -- made sense to anyone besides us. We met some very nice people, but it took us hours to arrange and run each focus group and a day to write up the results. So our approach to testing changed. Last week I spent 20 minutes setting up an online test, 30 minutes recruiting participants, and 30 minutes analyzing the results.
That kind of learning -- trying ideas, seeing how they work, and then adjusting -- is at the heart of what we do. I’ve had all sorts of jobs, from helping to build a blogger network to working with developers on new features for the site, and that approach ties them all together. We’re not afraid to fail, so long as we fail quickly and learn from it, and that’s liberating. I’ve had a blast!
One of our co-workers thought you lived in White River Junction for the longest time… but you don’t. Where do you live?
I live in the Upper Valley of central New Hampshire, in Canterbury, a small town just north of Concord. It’s filled with cool people, like the Upper Valley. It’s got a Shaker Village, like the Upper Valley. (Ours is bigger.) It’s beautiful, like the Upper Valley. If only it had great garlic fries, like the Upper Valley.
Although you don’t live in the Upper Valley, your job revolves around this geographical area. What is that like for you to not live in the place that you spend so much time trying to solve problems for?
Well, I’m actually in the Upper Valley two or three days a week, working from our World Headquarters in WRJ. The other days I work from home. And my roots in the Upper Valley are pretty deep. My first-full time job was covering the city of Lebanon for the Valley News, back when reporters used typewriters, and I met my wonderful wife Brenda because we were both living in the same apartment building on Prospect Street. My pickup line -- Hi, I’m Mark, could I borrow your vacuum cleaner? -- is legendary.
Okay it’s a Saturday afternoon. What are you doing?
Actually I’m more likely to be mowing, writing, taking a walk or a run, and otherwise hanging with my family. I also spend weekends not thinking about garlic fries.