Alexander Obenauer ('12)
Founder at Mindsense
Class of ’12
My wife, Sarah, and I graduated together in 2012. We now live in Chattanooga, Tenn., though we spend much of our time traveling the country in our RV, working from and exploring the many cities, towns, as well as local and national parks that pop up on our path.
I run Mindsense, the company I started during my senior year at Virginia Tech, where we design and develop software that we deeply believe should exist in the world. Our products have been praised in The New York Times, topped the Mac app store charts, and been regularly featured by Apple.
Outside of software, I enjoy working with my wife to support local communities around the globe through Make a Mark, the nonprofit she started when we lived in Blacksburg. I also love to play the guitar, which I do as often as I can.
How did the department equip you for the ‘real world’...
Through the department I was regularly challenged to explore new opportunities — from research to leadership roles and more — that prepared me with the mentality and experience I needed to pursue the work that I felt called to, as well as get my company off the ground.
Being a Virginia Tech alumnus means...
Hokies are a resilient, supportive, and a purposeful bunch. I love meeting other Virginia Tech alumni because odds are, they’re going to be resilient, supportive, and purposeful too. I hope that being a Virginia Tech alum means that the same can be assumed of me.
My fondest memory from my time in the department is...
Working with professors outside of class. I had the good fortune of getting to spend time with some incredible professors who cared deeply about their students. Dr. Tilevich, Dr. Balci, and Dr. Harrison all spent time with me well beyond what their courses required of either of us. Though I did not realize it then, that time they spent with me shaped the trajectory of my career.
The best location I’ve worked remotely from my RV is...
We’ve been fortunate to work from some pretty incredible places in our RV while “boondocking” (dry camping without hookups, usually on state or federal land), thanks to our solar panels. We’ve worked from the Rio Grande in Texas (about an hour away from the nearest grocery store!); a national forest near Sedona, Arizona; Monument Valley in Utah; an alpaca farm in Colorado; a family winery in New Mexico; an old saloon in Wyoming — but my favorite has to be when we spent a month living, exploring, and working from Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The Tetons are simply stunning in person — and nothing beats working from the rooftop of the pizza shop at Dornan’s watching the planes land amidst the snowy, rocky mountaintops.
Advice I would give a student looking to build a start-up is...
Take advantage of your time in college! If you want to try starting your own business, there’s no time better than when you’re in college to give it a shot. You’re surrounded by potential co-founders and the most available you’ll ever be to spend time trying to get some wild ideas off the ground.
You’ll learn a ton, and who knows — maybe you’ll end up creating the beginning of your career.
And one other thing: trust your gut. Success begets unsolicited— though attractive— advice. But nothing beats your inner compass; learn from others, but trust your intuition to guide you.