Rising Star: Giving Back
Mario Washington graduated from Queensborough Community College in 1996 with an Associate degree in Electrical Engineering.
Throughout high school, Mario Washington ’96, CEO of Reboot Computer Services, was captivated by the idea of flight and fixed on a career in aeronautical engineering. When it came time to enroll in college, however, the need to stay close to the home he shared with his grandmother, who was blind and dependent on Mario, became more important. In reviewing the local options, he paired his passion for computers with his interest in engineering, enrolled in Queensborough’s electrical and computer engineering technology program, and never looked back.
During his college years, Mario began to rethink his goals and imagine a new path, one of entrepreneurship. At just 22 years old, armed with an associate degree in electrical engineering and a contact at the Board of Education that would become his first client, he founded Reboot Computer Services. Sixteen years later, the computer services company has 14 employees in three cities (New York, Miami and Las Vegas) and has an impressive roster of clients, which include Apple, MTV, Viacom, Dow Jones and The New York Times, among others.
Getting there has been a journey of continuous reinvention. Nine years ago, frustrated by the lack of customer service skills of the engineering recruits to his company, he scaled back from 36 employees, and devised a new training manual and set of screening tools for prospective employees. “I learned that what I needed wasn’t necessarily engineers, but smart multi-taskers with excellent customer service skills. So I now take employees with excellent skill sets and train them to become engineers.”
The arc of Mario’s business ventures has mirrored the trends of the business cycles of the past two decades: start small, expand, go global, reinvest, scale back and reinvent. In 2002, he founded Sat-B Solutions, a Singapore-based distributor of audio and video broadcast equipment that served markets in India. Learning of the opportunities to fill a void in the audio and video markets in India, he then founded Audion Reboot Technologies, based in Mumbai, which he ran for nearly 4 years, before selling off the business.
Intensely focused, Mario is always looking for new ideas to explore. After building a kiosk system targeted for the nightclub industry, he conceived of a VIP card that acts as a high end event “key” to certain cities. After partnering with an entertainment company, the idea was pitched to Discover Card, who loved the idea, and thus another Mario Washington venture was born.
In the fall of 2012, Mario came back to a Queensborough classroom, this time to share his reflections on entrepreneurship with Professor Kelly Ford’s business students. “I can’t keep all of this in my head,” he told students. “I need to share my lessons and my mistakes with all of you. It is my way of giving back to QCC, which gave me my start. My first client [the Board of Education] came from my professor, Stuart Asser.” The students were riveted by the lessons, both professional and personal, that Mario shared. “I work at least 6 days a week. I don’t sleep much. Remember, it is not just my family I have to provide for, but I am also responsible for all of my employees’ families. It is a great responsibility, but it is one that motivates me.”
That generous spirit carries over into how he educates his clients. “I’m constantly showing my clients new ways to do things to help them. Many of my competitors won’t do that, because they don’t want to give anything away for free. That is not how I conduct my business. Reboot is my brand. I work hard to provide excellent service and protect the image of my company.”
In compiling its next annual “Forty Under Forty” list, Crain’s New York would do well to look to this Forest Hills entrepreneur.