In the chaotic world of business, many will embark on daunting, yet exciting endeavors to becoming established business owners. But as the design of life has taught us, only the fittest will survive. Many will start businesses, but only the few that are able to navigate through the labors and relentless space of entrepreneurship will flourish.
Meet one of the people that figured it out. Nsi Obotetukudo is a respected engineer, entrepreneur and trailblazer. Over the past 10+ years, Nsi has developed a talent for building businesses and communities, fundraising and social strategy. As co-founder of Alley, a premier coworking space in NYC, Nsi is no stranger to failure. In fact, he embraces it as he unequivocally understands and believes in the virtue of failure.
I had a chance to catch up with Nsi for a chat about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I felt like a new person after our conversation. With a unique combination of wisdom and practicality, it’s no surprise that Nsi co-founded one New York’s fastest growing workspaces. Here’s what he had to offer.
What drew you to the idea of Alley?
People. People got me to where I am today. Family. Friends. My Team. All of my teams. These people are the reason why I am where I am. Architecting a space and community that could multiply the support that I have in life is what drew me to starting Alley with my partners. The moment I walked into our first location I realized that if we did this right, we could make a space to bring people together to work on various projects and propel themselves to the next level. From a selfish standpoint, I personally get a lot of joy out of seeing other people win. It’s an honor to contribute to those stories even if we’re simply responsible for ensuring the wifi is on while they Slack their teams, ensuring coffee is brewed while they woo investors or curating Amel Larrieux in the bathrooms while they prep for a night out. From day one I committed myself and our teams to focus and build a community and spaces like ours where the willing could find their way, raise resources and level up.
Are you attracted to start-up culture?
Yes, I’m attracted to start-up culture, but really more than anything, I’m attracted to creating something and putting it out into the world to persist and thrive. So the pursuit to create things and put it out to the world is what I’m most attracted to. The gems along the way are the lessons you gain about yourself, the new perspective you gain on the world and the relationships you forge with people you can call team and sometimes can call family.
During the initial stages of creating this business, was there anything you would’ve done differently?
Yes. A lot. However, the biggest thing I would say I would have held more honest, hard, frustrating conversations about what we wanted this business become.
How do you feel Alley will evolve?
It’s hard to say what the future will bring, but organizations like Alley will consistently have a presence in this movement to reprogram real estate because the need for venture creation and people starting organizations continues to grow. What that “reprogramming” will look like will constantly shift, especially given that we're a space about our members and community above all else. There's no question that you’re going to see all different kinds of spaces pop up as the ecosystem continues to mature and evolve. In New York there are quite a few spaces already. However, the key to our evolution, after running a good honest business, will be our ability to continue to tell stories with our space, members and communities.
Which do you value more, education or experience?
Experience — but I believe there’s a there’s a third, and that’s tenacity or character. A lot of the times when I’m working with people, I’m looking for them to ride as long as I’m going to ride. I’m looking for them to bust through walls the way that I’m going to bust through walls. I’m looking for people who are going to commit themselves to an endeavor the way that I’m going to commit myself. It’s less about your educational background, and even in some cases less about your experience. If you have the right attitude, you/we are going to figure it out. I didn’t know anything about office spaces before I started working in the industry. Now we’re one of the leading coworking spaces in the city. So that’s what’s most important to me. Character. Less about education or experience, it’s much more about character.
Do you believe in a plan B?
No, not really. I believe in being as prepared as possible for things to go wrong. I guess it depends on what we’re talking about. If we’re talking about being the best I possibly can be in life, there is no plan B for that.
What’s the characteristic you value most in other people?
Honesty and integrity, hard work. If you can find people to do business with where you’re able to be honest, open and vulnerable, I believe a lot of really good work can be done.
What’s the characteristic you value most in yourself?
I would probably say my tenacity. You’re not going to out work me. Try. Because of that, I think almost anything is possible. It’s just a matter of finding the right person, telling the right story, knocking on the right door and shaking the right hand, pivoting, reframing, until the solution presents itself.
What apps do you use most often?
Mixmax. Apple Music. Soundcloud.
What's next for you?
I'm very excited. The Alley team will continue to grow what we’ve built over the years, while I focus on the next big adventure. I'll be working to develop more opportunities in emerging communities. It’s exciting, but challenging stuff. In parallel to that, I’m actively in talks with fellow founders and operators. So to anyone reading, reach out, I’m here to help. You win, I win. Let’s be great.
As an entrepreneur, what advice do you have for black millennials?
Break rules, use everything you possibly can, push to be great and you're nothing without a team. No one does this alone.