Photo courtesy of Carnegie Mellon UniversityW5Templates was founded by Dave Oshlag (E 1983), president of Project Marketing Associates. He was looking for a better way to organize his own projects, and nothing was fitting the way that he did business — he wanted things to be quick, flexible and not overly complicated.
So he did what all good entrepreneurs do; he built his own system. Using Excel, he created a new tracking system. At the same time an existing Fortune 500 client asked him to update an existing financial tracking system built in Excel. Oshlag knew he needed outside resources, with a very specific area of expertise.
Oshlag went back to his alma mater. He talked with faculty and staff in Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and posted the opportunity on the job board for students. Justin Wagner (E 2012) responded. Oshlag was impressed.
"Not only did he tell me what he could do, he had a demo of it in action," Oshlag said.
After they finished the initial job, Oshlag wanted to continue working with Wagner, and they talked about the idea of taking Oshlag's Excel template and making it commercially available. Wagner was in, and recommended a classmate, John Payne (E 2012), to help develop the mobile version. Wagner said that his training at CMU put him in the right mindset to take on the position.
"I learned at CMU that you can do anything that you put your mind to. Some of the classes introduce concepts that are really complex and deep, but if you take the time to understand the principles, you will be able to master them," Wagner said.
W5Templates fills a niche in the market for small business owners and employees looking to quickly create systems to keep track of clients and stay in touch with them. Since it's based on the Excel model, Oshlag says it's easier to adopt than competitor programs like Salesforce and Zoho.
"Salesforce and Zoho are like the Lego version of customer relationship management. There are lots of intricate pieces, and you can build something really cool if you follow the directions. We are the Duplo version — you can build the house much quicker," Oshlag said.
Jamie Rossi, assistant director of Graduate Student Initiatives, met Oshlag through CMU's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Her program serves to help offer professional development opportunities to master's and Ph.D. students.
Oshlag visited CMU in January and offered a lecture to graduate students — he returned this summer to offer a three-day workshop about project management.
"It was clear from the beginning that Dave has a passion for his work with project management and W5Templates. Dave resonated with our graduate students," Rossi said.