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Focal Upright Founder Martin Keen on How He Launched Two Businesses from a Desire to “Create Tools that Help Humans”

Today, many aspiring MBAs and MBA graduates want to join start-ups or launch such companies themselves. Is entrepreneurship as exciting as it seems? Is it really for you? mbaMission Founder Jeremy Shinewald has teamed up with Venture for America and CBS Interactive to launch Smart People Should Build Things: The Venture for America Podcast. Each week, Shinewald interviews another entrepreneur so you can hear the gritty stories of their ups and downs on the road to success.

Focal Upright Founder Martin Keen on How He Launched Two Businesses from a Desire to “Create Tools that Help Humans” - mbaMission

mbaMission Founder/President Jeremy Shinewald (left) with Focal Upright Co-Founders Martin Keen (center) and Mary Hall Keen (right).

Martin Keen is no stranger to craftsmanship: his father and grandfather built shoes and furniture, largely foretelling Keen’s own career. His two businesses, Keen Footwear and Focal Upright, were both born out of needs obvious to Keen. His footwear business began when he designed a protective shoe for sailors after years of sailing (and injuring!) himself. Later, his ergonomic furniture venture stemmed from the ill effects he experienced as a result of prolonged sitting and bad posture. Keen is also a notable supporter of Venture for America and has hired multiple VFA Fellows during his career. Listen to the podcast episode to hear his story, including these details:

  • Why it took seven years for Focal Upright to launch after Keen first came up with the idea for the company
  • How industrial design school helped him turn the ideas in his head into reality—and how the German viewpoints of the school changed his way of thinking
  • How appearing at the ICFF, a well-known furniture fair in New York City, gave Focal Upright a push forward

Subscribe to the podcast series to be among the first to hear each episode as it is released!




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