Nick Gray: Founder and Owner, Museum Hack
New York City
WFU Class of 2004
Major: Business with Marketing focus
Nick Gray is a hacker. And no, not of the data breach variety. He’s the dynamic founder and owner of the wildly popular tour company ‘Museum Hack’ in NYC. We spoke with Nick to learn about his journey from Wake student to successful entrepreneur.
*At the time of the interview, Nick was Founder and CEO of Museum Hack. He has since stepped out of the CEO role to focus on other things.
DeacLink: Tell us what you’re up to right now at Museum Hack.
Nick: We are hiring very fast, and a lot. We are making some key new hires, including an audience development team member, sales manager, and more tour guides. Along this process, we cast as wide a net as possible- posting to LinkedIn, Indeed.com, Craigslist, Facebook, local job sites, and arts pages- to get as many applicants as we can. We’re also increasing our focus on ‘team building’ as a key aspect of our service. We recently did a team building event with Facebook in San Francisco which was a really great experience. About eighty Facebook employees explored a museum together under our guidance, completing different fun tasks. We’re looking forward to doing more of these bookings in the future.
DL: What happened between graduation and the founding of your company?
NG: Prior to leaving Wake I had been running a software project on campus for two years, which I wanted to turn into a company after graduation. In 2004 there was no venture capital, so I went to India with my savings to hire programmers there. It was an amazing, funny, but ultimately unsuccessful experience. After India I moved back home to Georgia and helped my parents out in the family business. We were operating out of the basement of the house, with one employee. A couple weeks turned into a couple months, and then a couple years. By then we were a seventy-employee operation. I moved to New York in 2007 to handle sales and marketing for our business up there. It was during this time that I began doing renegade tours of museums on the weekends. It was just for fun then, something different to do with my friends. They would come, hang out, and experience a place I had grown to love.
DL: How much did your studies at Wake inform or drive your career path?
NG: The business school was huge of course, but the time I spent helping my parents was crucial to preparing me for setting up my own business. During undergrad I wasn’t always at Calloway though, I spent some time in Scales. I was part of the Lilting Banshees as well as the inaugural class of Gordon McCray’s Arts Leadship Course. At the time, it wasn’t competitive to get into... I just took it because it sounded cool.
DL: Do you think Wake adequately prepared you for life after graduation?
NG: I’m so thankful for the friends I made at wake who became business models and mentors for me. The people I met there are my best friends who I keep in touch with still today.
DL: What’s the hardest part about breaking into your field?
NG: People try and fail in this market because they become too heady and get way ahead of themselves. We have a very simple product, and we keep it simple- we do live museum tours. We got really good at our tours, generated demand, and kept the growth slow. From that process we have created a multi million dollar business.
DL: How do you like living and working in NYC? What made you choose this city to set up your company?
NG: I love the spontaneity of a big city, and the freedom and flexibility it affords me. New things happen every day.. my schedule is crazy. I meet amazing people all the time, and each day is a new adventure.
DL: What and where is next for you?
NG: We are growing Museum Hack very slowly on purpose, being careful about it. However, with that said, we would like to expand to other cities in the future. For now though, the biggest aim moving forward is to emphasize our team building experiences, and make ourselves known for that aspect of our service.
DL: Do you have a top tip to pass on to our readers?
NG: Cash is king.