CauseLabs Origin Story – Building a Social Enterprise

Children in India seeing their picture on an iPhone

CauseLabs Origin Story – Building a Social Enterprise

CauseLabs, formerly HiDef Web Solutions and HiDef Inc., was formed in 2003 by Azin Mehrnoosh. In 2010, our current owner, Sheryle Gillihan, joined the company and over the next ten years sat in many seats, serving the company as it grew. By 2012, Azin stepped out of the day to day business operations, and in 2014 the company rebranded to CauseLabs to align more with its values and mission. In 2016, Azin Mehrnoosh promoted Sheryle Gillihan to CEO, and in 2018, an agreement was formed for Sheryle and Michael Gillihan to purchase CauseLabs from Azin. While Sheryle was a part of the initial rebrand in 2014 and founder of the rebirth of the company in 2018, we honor our origin story and everything that Azin put into the company to build the foundation for what exists today.

This is Azin’s founder story… our origin story:

“I’ve always had a fascination with technology. When I was a kid, I would open up radios, clocks, video game systems, and computers just to see what made them tick. The desire to break down and understand complex systems, designs, and technology is core to my psyche. This internal drive is probably why I realized, more than anything, that I’m an entrepreneur who wants to build really awesome companies.”

“Following in the footsteps of my mother, who had always been able to support our family as a small business owner, I decided to create my own digital agency while in college. In 2003 I founded CauseLabs (back then it was called HiDef). In the early 2000s there seemed to be a dearth of good web design and development companies who actually had some aesthetic sense. I figured I could cobble together enough clients to pay rent and get the small agency off the ground. It wasn’t very easy having a tiny network in an anti-tech town like Albuquerque, NM. However, I was able to close about $40,000 in the first year of business. I’m proud that we never needed to get loans or investments early on. We were able to string together enough clients to grow the company 20x over the subsequent 5 years.”

“By the time we reached $800k/year in revenue, I could sense the artificial limits that a small market like Albuquerque were forcing on the company, so I recruited a CEO in Denver. I eventually left the day-to-day operations and created a board of directors, that I chaired.”

“We had a smattering of industries and clients at that point where we felt a deep desire to consolidate on a few industries that we were really passionate about. This internal gut check brought about our rebranding to CauseLabs, and a focus on social impact, which ultimately helped us grow the company to new heights. CauseLabs grew to over 20 employees covering 5 US states and a few contractors scattered across the globe. We eventually landed clients like LEGO, the World Economic Forum, and IDEO (the .org too!). I’m more than proud of all the incredible work we’ve done during my tenure, and ultimately the lives we impacted. In the summer of 2003, I never dreamed that my company, 15 years later, would reach 100s of millions of people, and generate millions of dollars in revenue. It’s the greatest joy to leave the company in supremely talented hands with a vision and drive to make CauseLabs an even greater, more impactful organization.”

“What’s next for me, you ask? I’ve always been drawn to building scrappy startups with a social mission. Since I left my day-to-day role at CauseLabs in 2011, I’ve founded two more startups in EdTech and VR. Now I’m working as the lead Product Manager at the rapidly growing experiential art startup, Meow Wolf. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the experiences and people that touched my heart at CauseLabs. Thank you all for the opportunity to change the world with you.”

From Sheryle Gillihan, our co-owner and founder of what CauseLabs is today:

“It is hard to consider myself a founder. I don’t know if I would have taken the risks and grown the company the way that Azin did especially in those early years. I have learned a lot from him, but I have also learned a lot being the owner of a company. I’ve been thrust into making some of those decisions about risks, investments, rewards and deciding how to fail forward. It’s not for the feint of heart. I will always admire Azin for what he built, and now I am forging my own path, turning CauseLabs into a family-owned, family-led company that is becoming my legacy. It is a company I have always treasured even before I was the co-owner, not for its success or growth, but for its mission, the impact we’ve made with our clients, and the experiences I have personally had because of our work. It’s changed my life and I see it transforming the lives of others. I continue to embrace the possibilities of where we can go with CauseLabs to fulfill our mission of growing positive impact.”

CauseLabs CEO, Sheryle Gillihan, is surrounded by children while visiting an orphanage in India.

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