Student intern Josh Baylor working at Mindsense in Blacksburg with CEO and alum Alex Obenauer.

   Joshua Baylor

Joshua Baylor, of Yorktown, Virginia, a rising sophomore with a major in business information technology, launched two business ventures while in high school – a laptop salvage and a clothing line.
Baylor’s entrepreneurial mindset attracted him to the Innovate Living-Learning Community at Virginia Tech, an undergraduate residential program where accomplished entrepreneurs and innovators reside in Pritchard Hall alongside students in the community.
 
“Innovate is probably one of the best experiences I have ever had,” Baylor said.
 
He connected with Alexander Obenauer (computer science ’12), the founder and CEO of Mindsense, a Blacksburg startup, through Innovate. Baylor is spending the summer as an intern at Mindsense, a company that operates a web and mobile email program allowing users to maximize productivity by controlling what reaches his or her inbox.
 
“Josh has been hugely beneficial to our growth and acquisition efforts as we ramp up our newest product, Throttle,” Obenauer said.
 
The software platform redirects all the information you do not want cluttering your mailbox.
 
“It is a really intuitive way to avoid distractions, allowing you to focus solely on the information that is critical to your daily life,” Baylor said.
Think of how fast the minutes add up when you stop multiple times every hour to check email. Throttle seeks to solve the problem of lost time, vowing to help users “reclaim the 70 hours a month” lost to email.
 
Throttle users have the ability to set customizable preferences, which are used to generate a daily digest of messages, including subscriptions, notifications, newsletters, coupons, offers, and spam. These summaries allow users to remain connected to various subscriptions and online services, without being interrupted as emails trickle in throughout the day
 
Baylor fields customer service issues and uses various online tools to develop analysis based on customer data for the purpose of iteration; analyzing why potential users do not complete the five-step sign-up process, for example.
 
He researches competing ventures. He also explores media outlets, podcasts, and blogs in search of ways to expand customer outreach. Baylor said the internship is giving him solid experience to accompany the business information technology courses he will begin this fall at the Pamplin College of Business.
 
“As Josh is learning about business and entrepreneurship, he’s been able to get the most intimate glimpse at the real day-to-day of our bootstrapped company that we’ve ever been able to offer,” Obenauer said. “He’s in the office almost daily, and has been able to pick up on tons of details of startups and business that matter on the ground, but that don’t usually make it into the curriculum.”
 
In addition to the industry specific skills, Baylor said he has learned many practical skills by observing in the workplace. Those skills include communication, teamwork, and problem solving. Baylor’s involvement with Innovate also promotes those skills; he specifically cites the fireside chats with visiting innovators and business leaders.
 
“Listening to them has changed the way I approach entrepreneurship,” Baylor said.
 
He said he has learned to distinguish between opportunities and ideas.
 
“It’s a matter of peripheral vision,” Baylor said. “To truly see the potential in an idea, to truly see it as an opportunity, you need to be willing to look beyond your dream and dig into the gritty details that would determine its survival.”
 
The Innovate Living-Learning Community is an on-campus undergraduate Community of transdiscliplinary students from multiple colleges at Virginia Tech who live, learn, and practice entrepreneurship through experiential learning. For more information, or to apply for admission, please visit: ApexCIE.vt.edu/Innovate

Written by Courtney Cutright

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