Welcome to Meet HqO: a series on our blog where we get to know the team that's building our tenant experience platform for commercial real estate. I'm sitting down with our whole crew to understand and share: what gets them up in the morning, why they're jazzed about CRE technology, and what they bring to the table (and also learn) at HqO. Oh yeah, and we're hiring! Learn more about joining the team.
Katie Sullivan: Our team has a ridiculous number of Katie and Kate's BUT Katie Muto is our head of commerce and growth here at HqO. Muto, can you expand on your role here and what you're focused on most days?
Katie Muto: Sure, I’m heading up commerce at HqO and we focus on any and all transactions on the platform. Our goal is to connect office tenants with retail tenants and small businesses in and around their property. We know that mobile ordering is a critical piece of tenant experience software so we are heads down working with our development team to prioritize features for release, talking to retail tenants at our participating properties to learn more about what they need, training them on how to take advantage of TeX software, and laying out a launch plan to drive initial awareness and engagement.
In my opinion, one of the most interesting aspects about HqO is that we are an enterprise B2B company but the core of our platform is a consumer-facing app. Our job is to help landlords provide a platform to individual tenants that they love and use daily. This means we need to be able to excel both at an enterprise level and at a consumer level, which provides an exciting challenge for us. I have experience on the consumer side, but I’ve also had an opportunity to learn an enormous amount over the past year, not only about enterprise business strategies but about the real estate industry in general.
Katie S: Lots of learning for sure, but your experience pre-HqO is very impressive. Can you elaborate a bit?
Katie Muto: Well, before joining HqO I was co-founder and CEO of a startup called Spots, an app which helped users discover real-time events, specials, and wait times/lines in their neighborhood. Before that, I had no experience with technology. So, very relevant to the consumer side of HqO. I was working in a cancer research lab and preparing to attend a master of public health (MPH) program with a plan to move into healthcare consulting.
The summer before I started my MPH I had to have foot surgery so I was VERY bored sitting at home in a cast. I offered to help some friends with messaging and content for a new app idea and suddenly I found myself thrown into the world of startups. It turned into a crash course on product management, user engagement, SMB sales strategies, fundraising, recruiting, etc., which I LOVED – and corporate law, taxes and accounting, which I liked much less. After launching, we acquired 20k users in Boston within four months. We also had the opportunity to participate in Mass Challenge, which was an incredible learning experience.
Katie S.: So cool! What would you say is the biggest lesson you learned that you bring to your role at HqO?
Katie Muto: Move fast, set up quick and efficient tests, and iterate often.
In my experience, one of the benefits you get from experiencing an early stage startup is that you’re forced to think creatively and find quick solutions. I apply that same strategy at HqO. We keep a close eye on engagement with each feature, and user feedback and data to iterate rapidly and make sure we’re constantly improving. We are obsessed with building an excellent user experience because we know doing so is essential to keep people engaged and interested in the platform. This focus is one of the things that differentiates us from many of our competitors in the space.
Katie S.: We really are obsessed. What other aspects of HqO do you love? The culture, team, anything else?
Katie Muto: Well, I love to learn. One of the best parts about our culture at HqO is we take every opportunity to learn and improve. If something isn’t working, we fix it. If something needs to be improved, we talk about it as a team and implement ways to improve.
We apply the same strategy we use with our product, iteration + testing, to our team culture as well. We reflect back on meetings, projects, launches, etc. ("retro"), and as a team, we share our thoughts on what went well, what posed challenges, where we lost time, and how we can improve. Every retro is an opportunity to learn and grow. Everyone has a voice and an opportunity to share their perspective. It creates an honest and productive environment.
Katie S.: It's true! Ok, BONUS QUESTION time! Where can we find you when you're not at HqO? Any Muto fun facts we should know?
Katie Muto: When I’m not at HqO I’m usually trying to do something outdoors. I love hiking. I’m working on completing the 48 4000+ foot peaks in the White Mountains. I also have a dog who turns into a general nightmare when he goes too long without a “real” mountain hike so that provides a great incentive for us to get out. I love tennis and idolize Serena Williams. I’ve been known to get into lengthy and sometimes heated discussions about why she’s the the GOAT.
And, fun fact: I’m right-handed but left footed. Throughout twelve years of soccer I was significantly better on my left side than the right.