RICHMOND - When we arrive to meet Suzanne Davenport, she confides in us that she hasn't told many people about her stealth startup. She's afraid someone will steal her idea because she's sure that there's a market for her idea. Davenport wants to revolutionize project management, tossing away software made for linear industrial production and replacing it with a simple online service that's tailored to the needs of today's service businesses.
Davenport does not have the demographic profile of your typical tech entrepreneur. Born and raised in Richmond, she's a mother of five who spent decades banking, parenting, and project managing. In that last career, she struggled with the tools available for project management. They were either based on old-school Gantt charts like Microsoft Project or too much about building a team like Scrum. So after her stint at Virginia Commonwealth University's executive MBA program, she decided to create her own tool. She found a developer, Josh Golub, who just so happens to be her hairdresser's husband, and has spent the last year working on her web application.
If she's atypical in some ways, Davenport is a model startup founder in others. "After I got my MBA, people asked me, 'Why do you do this? Why don't you get a real job?" she told us. "My answer is that I can't not do this. I'm just driven to make this work."
Davenport's background also gives her an advantage that she shares with many good entrepreneurs: she is her own target customer. After years of doing project management, Davenport is developing the "system that I wanted to have for myself."
In a few months, her new site will launch at smartprojex.com. Until then, she'll keep honing the product and preparing the business plan from her home
Image: Alexis Madrigal/The Atlantic.