Schoolyard to startup: Meet the MBA alumni building unicorns
MasterBorn has already engineered three unicorns — ClickFunnels, Outside and Medable.
20 years later, the Class of 2002 alumni are teaming up again. This time the childhood friends aren’t running relay races. They're building unicorns. No, not the kind with shiny horns and multi-colored manes — but tech companies with billion dollar valuations. Skinner’s software development company, MasterBorn has already engineered three — ClickFunnels, Outside and Medable.
With Miller by his side, he expects MasterBorn to make even more magic.
“We have a history of winning together,” says Skinner, who recently relocated back to Nashville from Europe. “I’m confident that with Morgan as VP of Growth at MasterBorn, we will win again.”
The two reconnected over a game of ultimate frisbee on the football field of their alma mater in August.
“It’s poetic,” says Miller. “We started this new chapter at our school — the place where our story began.”
Skinner’s five-year-old firm has built software for 75+ startups across the globe and is on track to achieve nearly eight figures in revenue this year. The two will open a Nashville office in 2024 and add 30 to its 120 person team. Skinner says MasterBorn will maintain its two original offices in Poland.
“Our friendship has certainly gone the distance, but we have so much farther to go,” says Skinner.
After high school, the two took different tracks. Skinner traveled to the Triangle and studied communications at the University of North Carolina.
“The overachiever finished in 3 years,” says Miller, who earned an athletic scholarship to Ole Miss, where he majored in Finance.
Despite the distance, Miller and Skinner stayed in touch.
“Gray called me more than my mom did,” laughs Miller. “He kept up with all my races. It’s really impressive when you realize cell phones and social media weren't mainstream.”
Skinner returned to the Tri-Star state where he attended law school at the University of Tennessee. The newly minted attorney had no trouble finding a job after graduation.
Bazaarvoice hired the Volunteer straight out of school. In 2010, Skinner joined the company as in-house counsel. The Texas tech startup was a pioneer in e-commerce intelligence. Its platform enabled companies like P&G and Walmart to capture valuable customer insights online. Two years after he arrived, the Austin-based business IPOd. During his tenure he also adopted the title of Chief of Staff.
“It gave me the opportunity to learn how to build teams,” says Skinner.
In 2015, Skinner left the Lone Star state. Droplr, an Oregon software startup, recruited the 30-year-old to serve as its CEO. The company set out to reinvent remote work with its show and tell style screen recording app.
“We saw the need for more streamlined collaboration and communication before Covid,” says Skinner.
It was a tall order, but Droplr delivered.
Shortly after Skinner started, enterprise companies like AirBnB, Nike, Pixar and Squarespace adopted its app.
Droplr, like Loom, allows users to record their screen and camera simultaneously to create short informative tutorials and messages. Easy-to-use video editing tools allow people to annotate and explain what’s on the screen.
In 2019, Skinner steered Droplr through its seven figure sale to Triangle Digital Ventures.
Meanwhile, Miller was making a name for himself back in Music City. In 2018, the government contracting guru co-founded Ichor Sciences.The medical device company has developed a new way to treat wounds on the battlefield.
MasterBorn is born
After the exit, Skinner left Bend behind. He packed his bags and headed for Poland. He set out to start a software development company.
The idea for the firm came from his friends. They often asked him for advice on how to turn their ideas into actual tech.
Skinner had a knack for assembling teams, specifically Polish tech teams. He developed the skill while at Droplr.
“In 2015 we were searching for tech talent overseas,” explains Skinner. “American tech talent was and still is monopolized by the tech giants in Silicon valley. The starting salaries are unrealistic. Small to mid-size companies can’t compete.”
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Droplr assessed the usual suspects — southeast Asia and India — but the data pushed them to Poland.
“Statistics showed it was consistently one of the top three markets for tech talent,” says Skinner. “The talent and the people were unparalleled. They integrated with our American team culturally and technically. They became a part of our team.”
Skinner made his first overseas hire in 2016 — Radek Paklikowski. Three years later, the Polish employee became his co-founder.
“MasterBorn wouldn’t be what it is today without Radek,” says Skinner. “We make a good team. Our backgrounds and our skill sets are dramatically different, but we share the same vision and values.”
A lesson to be learned
“Running a business is a lot like running a relay race,” says Skinner. “It takes endurance, determination and teammates you trust to pass the baton to. Find the right teammates and you’ll cross the finish line.”
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